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Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said Sunday that there have been no breakthroughs in contract talks with unsigned free agents Alexei Zhitnik, Donald Audette, Miroslav Satan and Mike Wilson.

"The discussions are continuing, more with Serge Levin -- Alexei's agent -- than anyone else," Regier said.

Zhitnik has been seeking a contract in the neighborhood of $3 million, while the Sabres are said to be offering a few hundred thousand dollars per year less than that. Regier said the recent signing of Los Angeles Kings' defenseman Rob Blake at a rate of more than $5 million per year won't have an impact on Zhitnik's situation.

"Rob Blake is the Norris Trophy winner, which goes to the league's top defenseman," Regier said. "Where he signed was expected."

Regier said Satan visited Austria during the Sabres' trip there. Satan, who lives in Slovakia, met with Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff.

Close to 100 free agents around the league are still unsigned.
The Sabres had their first look Sunday at the two-referee system that will be introduced to the National Hockey League this season. Don Van Massenhoven and Tim Peel worked the game, and they were busy. The two called 80 minutes in penalties, most of them coming in a third period that featured a series of scraps.

Slightly more than half of all of the preseason games will be played with two referees, as the league will try to give the teams a chance to become accustomed to it. Each team will play in 20 regular-season games featuring two referees.

Matthew Barnaby might have been the happiest Sabre to be back in Western New York after the European trip. He and his wife were reunited with their baby after a week of separation.

"A week's a long time not to see the baby. He grew so much while we were away," Barnaby said. "It's amazing how much they change in that time."

The Sabres donated 3,000 tickets for Sunday's game to the United Way. Those tickets were distributed throughout Erie County.

The team also is starting a program this season in conjunction with the United Way in which volunteers and corporate partners can buy discounted tickets to 10 games. For each ticket purchased, the Sabres in return will donate $5 to the United Way.

Ruff gave Sunday night off to about half the players who traveled with the team to Austria. The ones who played against the Maple Leafs will not skate today. . . . Dwayne Roloson was the starter in goal for Buffalo, while Martin Biron came on in relief in the third period. . . . Jason Woolley returned after missing two games with a groin injury. Rumun Ndur bruised his hip and missed the second half of the game.

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