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NHL SUSPENDS RAY FOR KICKING INCIDENT

Rob Ray will be out of the Buffalo Sabres' lineup for an indefinite period after being suspended by the National Hockey League on Sunday.

Ray received the suspension after getting a match penalty in Saturday's game with the Florida Panthers, and he did not play against the Tampa Bay Lightning here Sunday night. He is to take part in a hearing sometime later this week.

Ray was called for "slew-footing" -- or kicking the legs out from under -- Alex Hicks of the Panthers. The fact that Ray had been given a match penalty was not announced during Saturday's game in Florida. Ray said Sunday that he didn't even know about the match penalty until Sunday morning.

The league suspended a couple of players for slew-footing earlier this season. Ray denied deliberately trying to take Hicks' legs out from under him.

"There were situations early, and things got out of hand," Ray said. "It snowballed. It's an emotional game out there. Things happen. I'd like to say stuff, but until I find out what's going on (concerning a longer suspension) I have to watch it."

Ray had company on the sidelines Sunday night. Alexei Zhitnik suffered a bruised chest in Saturday's contest and is day-to-day. Mike Hurlbut replaced Zhitnik on defense.

Paul Kruse reinjured his groin during his second shift of the Panthers' game and also sat out. It is the third time this season that Kruse has suffered that particular injury.

Buffalo recalled Erik Rasmussen and Randy Cunneyworth from Rochester for Sunday's game. Both dressed for the contest, while Derek Plante was scratched.

The Sabres weren't in a good mood before Sunday's game. Not only were they angry about the way they played -- a 6-2 loss to the Panthers in a thoroughly lackluster performance -- but they might have been even more angry about the officiating in that game.

Buffalo's frustration level first started to rise late in the first period. The Panthers' Radek Dvorak hit the Sabres' Matthew Barnaby with a stray high stick while Buffalo was on the power play. Barnaby fell to the ice with a cut on his face. Seconds later, Dvorak skated to the other end of the ice and scored a short-handed goal to give Florida a 2-0 lead.

"I was waiting for them to blow the whistle, because I was hurt," Barnaby said. "When I got up, I couldn't see my stick. My eye was all blurry because I couldn't see. I thought for sure there was a penalty."

"The non-call on Barnaby got me started," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We should have had a five-on-three."

In the second period, Michal Grosek collided with Florida goalie Kirk McLean. Grosek was tackled by Florida's Peter Worrell; Ruff didn't like the fact that Worrell wasn't given an extra penalty.

"Worrell was driving his (Grosek's) face into the ice. He can't let that happen," he said.

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