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FOR JUNEAU, BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

Whenever Joe Juneau returns to Buffalo like he did Friday night, the good memories come to mind quickly.

Juneau, now with the Ottawa Senators, was a member of the Buffalo Sabres' team that reached the Stanley Cup finals last season. He left the team over the summer as an unrestricted free agent, but holds no ill feelings toward the Sabres.

"I had a great time while I was here," Juneau said. "Those are memories I'm going to keep for life. The respect you get from these guys is just tremendous. Every time you go that far, you have to win a lot of battles. We didn't win at the end, but it was still a great achievement."

Plenty has changed since Juneau's last appearance in a Buffalo uniform. The 32-year-old winger waited until Oct. 25 before signing a $1.7 million contract with the Senators, meaning he missed almost a month of the regular season.

"It wasn't tough," Juneau said. "I kind of used it as a longer break to rest a little bit more. It was two very long seasons. It was nice to be home a little longer."

Juneau needed some rest after going to the Cup finals in back-to-back seasons. He was with the Washington Capitals in 1998 when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings. Lately, teams reaching the finals have had trouble bouncing back the next season; the Capitals didn't even qualify for the postseason in 1998-99. Juneau knows firsthand that four playoff series within two months can take a toll.

"Obviously, it is tough. It's so long," he said. "It's hard for guys like Michael Peca, someone who played a lot of minutes and gave everything he had. It's the same thing that happened to Washington the year before. It's happened to Dallas, too. Dallas had a tough start this year, probably for the same reason."

Juneau has seven goals and 17 assists in 39 games. The Pont-Rouge, Quebec, native is happy to be playing so close to home, and he's helped the Senators' offense this season. Ottawa has been without star center Alexei Yashin because of a bitter contract dispute, and Juneau and the rest of the Senators have tried to pick up the slack..

"If you don't pick it up, you're going to find yourself in big trouble," he said. "It's obviously hard to lose one of the top guys in the league. We had to play without that the whole year. We managed to do pretty good without Yashin in the lineup. You have to give a lot of credit to the coaches and a lot of the players."
Wayne Primeau's status remains in limbo after an examination by a specialist in Tennessee. His hip injury will sideline him indefinitely.

"They (the doctors) want him to take two weeks to rest before he tries to skate again," coach Lindy Ruff said. "There's still different opinions on what it is. We're trying to sort that out.

"He's frustrated, obviously."

Meanwhile, Dominik Hasek practiced with the team for about 20-30 minutes Friday while continuing to work out on his own. Hasek said he hopes to take part in a full practice with the Sabres some time next week.
Buffalo's scratches were Cory Sarich and Geoff Sanderson.

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