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The Buffalo Sabres are on pace to lose about $15 million this season, but the financial downfall would not stop them from improving the team, owner John Rigas said Saturday.

Rigas said the team is still looking to restructure its lease with New York State and Erie County, something that could save about $6 million a year. The team lost between $12 million and $15 million last season.

"I and the family have been discussing what we can do to strengthen the team," Rigas said. "And it hasn't been a budget matter."

Rigas, founder of Adelphia Communications Corp., has been looking with his family for other ways to make money that would offset their losses from owning the Sabres, such as investing in the Buffalo waterfront. Rigas said he would not look for a quick fix, such as substantially raising ticket prices before next season.

The Sabres are expected to make a deal before the trading deadline March 23 in hopes of improving the team before the playoffs. They have been committed to remaining financially responsible. They also are open to the possibility of signing an expensive player, within reason. No deals were imminent Saturday.

"We are confident. I sincerely mean we can solve this problem," Rigas said. "(But) if you're talking about a player that was going to cost another $10 million a year, we'd have to take an awfully hard look at that."

Sabres winger Matthew Barnaby was a healthy scratch for the first time this season Saturday after he took a double-minor for roughing and was ejected from a game Thursday.

Barnaby, who asked to be traded last season before leading the team with seven playoff goals and co-leading with 13 postseason points, has become increasingly frustrated this year.

Rumors regarding the Sabres possibly trading the winger have been rampant around the NHL for a week. The Calgary Flames had a scout at the game Saturday. That scout also was reportedly taking a look at the Rochester Americans earlier in the week.

"Matthew Barnaby has been in a difficult situation from the start of last season," Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said. "You wait and you hope that he can work his way through it.

"If he can't you have to look at an opportunity not only for the organization but for Matthew to give him a fresh start."

Barnaby, who refused comment, has four goals and 14 assists. Earlier this week, he blamed himself for many of his recent problems and said he was not angry with the team.

Ruff went with several new line combinations in the Sabres 4-1 win over the Kings and continued to mix them throughout the game.

The best combination appeared to be Derek Plante centering for Geoff Sanderson and Brian Holzinger. They were together when the Sabres scored twice 25 seconds apart in the third period goals by Holzinger and defenseman Alexei Zhitnik.

"It was just fresh faces for a while," Ruff said. "It's been a long time since we put a number of goals in. It was nice to score more than three."

The Sabres scored four goals in the third period, the first time they have scored that many in one period this season. They had scored more than three in a game just once in the previous 10 games.

Donald Audette had an interesting debut as a visitor in Marine Midland Arena. He scored the only Los Angeles goal, was cheered during introductions and booed in the second period.

"I talked to a few guys (Saturday) morning," Audette said. "They were the same guys who punched me (Saturday) night."

The former Sabre, who went to the Kings in a trade Dec. 18 after a contract dispute with Buffalo, was involved in a brief skirmish in the second period after brushing against goalie Dominik Hasek.

Hasek immediately charged Audette, and Sabres forward Rob Ray attempted to reach his former teammate but was held back by the Kings and the officials.

"He's there, and he's the opposition," Ray said. "He probably thought he could get away with a little more because he was a part of this team. He took off on us; we didn't let him go. He's fair game."

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