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WAIVER LIST MAKES NO WAVES

It's fairly certain the Buffalo Sabres didn't elicit any gasps when they turned in their protected list for Friday's NHL waiver draft.

When the league on Wednesday released each team's list of available players, prominent names jumped off the page. Chris Osgood in Detroit, Stephane Fiset in Los Angeles, Dmitri Khristich in Washington and Benoit Hogue in Dallas. The Sabres, however, weren't forced into exposing any of their major contributors.

Teams were allowed to protect 18 skaters and two goaltenders. The Sabres had 29 players eligible for the waiver draft, but they exposed only one who spent time with them last season: center Chris Taylor. The others left unprotected were forwards Christian Matte, Francois Methot and Darren Van Oene, defensemen Rory Fitzpatrick, Doug Houda, Mike Hurlbut and Mario Larocque and goaltender Tom Askey.

Skaters are eligible for the waiver draft after they have played 160 games or have spent four years as a pro. Goalies qualify after 80 games.

"It was pretty cut and dry," General Manager Darcy Regier said. "Quite frankly, if Maxim Afinogenov had played one or two more games he would have had to have been protected. If that had happened we would have had to make a decision. But the list makes sense."

Some of Buffalo's younger prospects, such as forwards Norm Milley and Taylor Pyatt, defenseman Brian Campbell and goalie Mika Noronen aren't experienced enough and didn't need to be taken into consideration when drawing up the protected list.

Regier doesn't expect the Sabres to add to their roster in Friday's draft.

Wednesday wasn't wonderful for Matte and Methot, who also were assigned to the Rochester Americans. Wingers Jeremy Adduono and Van Oene also were sent to the AHL club, leaving the Sabres with 27 players on their preseason roster, including injured defenseman Henrik Tallinder.

The Sabres and unsigned restricted free agent Erik Rasmussen have continued negotiations. Regier said he hopes to speak with the forward's agent, Brian Lawton, again today. The sides have reached accord on the length of the deal -- either two or three years, but probably not one -- and are haggling over dollars.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff announced goalie Martin Biron will start against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Air Canada Centre and Saturday in Hamilton, Ont. Backup Bob Essensa will start Friday's game against the Ottawa Senators at the Corel Centre.

That means Noronen's first preseason appearance should be his last. Noronen stopped 33 shots in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he probably will be assigned to Rochester this weekend, barring injury to either Biron or Essensa.

"I thought Mika was good, especially in the first period," Ruff said. "They caught him kind of quick with the first goal, but overall I think he was good."

Unlike last year, no one has been blown away by Noronen's preseason performances. Part of the problem could be the fact the 6-foot-1 Finn dropped 10 pounds from last season's playing weight and hasn't been able to assimilate.

Friday's 7 p.m. game against the Senators will be broadcast live on Empire. The network originally had left the game off its preseason schedule.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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