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SABRES GET UNDER WAY (ON XBOX) <br> G4TECHTV SIMULATING NHL SEASON, TELEVISING HIGHLIGHTS

The bad news for the Buffalo Sabres is that they are 1-3-2 after their first six games.

The good news is that there are Sabres playing hockey, at least in the imaginary world created by G4TechTV, a cable channel that is simulating all 1,230 games of the NHL regular season. They play games with the video-game versions of real players on real NHL teams, using EA Sports' NHL 2005 on Xbox.

The video game, the most popular one on the market, is based on statistics from last season. The games are simulated by the Xbox without players at the controls.

There is even a nightly NHL highlights show airing on G4TechTV. The day's top games are sampled by Los Angeles Kings announcer Jim Fox and Kings player Luc Robitaille. The show airs at 7 p.m. on the channel, which is geared to video gamers and is available to subscribers of Adelphia digital cable, DirecTV and the Dish Network.

The highlights program is also available on the company's Web site (www.g4techtv.com/hockey.aspx), along with game summaries, schedules and NHL standings.

"We have the most fun when we show highlights from when Luc has supposedly played in a game," Fox said by phone from Los Angeles. "He'll come into the studio and say he's tired from the game."

Now in his third week of this cyberseason, Fox said he almost forgets that the highlights he is narrating are not real.

"I'm not even a big video game guy, but the angles that the (EA Sports) cameras get on the games here are unbelievable," he said. "On Fox Sports here in L.A. . . . we just can't get those angles. It almost becomes instructional."

J.P. Dumont of the Sabres has seven points in the G4Tech world, tying him for second on the team with Chris Drury. Miroslav Satan has eight points, including three goals.

Dumont was happy to learn about his productivity.

"We would definitely be better than (1-3-2), though point-wise (individually) it looks pretty good," he said after a morning skating session in the Amherst Pepsi Center.

Dumont has been known to spend many a happy hour playing video games, including EA's version of the game he plays for a living.

"Usually when I play I'm the Sabres," he said. "I'll play a whole season.

"I have more free time now (during the lockout), so that's definitely something I enjoy doing. . . . At night my wife and I put the baby to bed and then I go play (video games)."

Don't try this at home, but Dumont has been known to tinker with the controls, to allow himself to stay on the ice all 60 minutes.

"Of course, when you play by yourself, you set up yourself to be on the ice all the time. I think that's the fun of it."

Fox hasn't seen much of the fake Sabres, he admits.

"I saw Daniel Briere score an OT winner for the Sabres in one highlight show we did," he said. "But I can't remember who it was against. We tape the shows ahead of time."

Some other early-season notes from the NHL as seen through G4TechTV:

Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia are the class of the Eastern Conference thus far, with nine points each in the standings.

The Calgary Flames (5-0-0-1) lead the Western Conference and the league -- with 11 points, followed by Colorado with 10 and Dallas with nine.

Dominik Hasek has one victory, and a 3.99 goals-against average, for the 1-2 Ottawa Senators.

Jarome Iginla's two goals and three assists tie him for Calgary's points lead with Martin Gelinas.

Mario Lemieux of Pittsburgh has just two assists thus far.

Owen Nolan is on fire for Toronto (2-3-0), with two goals and six assists.

(Another Web site, www.whatifsports.com, is also simulating the season online. They've got Briere leading the 2-3-1 Sabres with five points on the season.)

Will fake hockey find a vast audience on television? Even Dumont, a confessed video-game junkie, has his doubts.

"Maybe once in awhile," Dumont said, "but I don't think you'd get a family and their kids to sit down and watch that."
e-mail: gconnors@buffnews.com

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