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It's business as usual on the ice

Paul Gaustad grabbed the rebound at 11:50 Tuesday morning, whirled behind the net to the opposite post and shot the puck under a sprawled Ryan Miller.

With that, the Buffalo Sabres' 533-day scoring drought in HSBC Arena was over.

The Sabres opened training camp for the 2005-06 season Tuesday, taking their rightful place as primary tenants in the arena for the first time since April 2004. The main event was a scrimmage between the Red and White squads (the team is split into thirds until cutdowns are made), and when Gaustad gave the White a 1-0 lead, it was the first goal by a Sabre at home since Chris Taylor closed out a 6-0 victory over Columbus on March 29, 2004.

It was a welcome sight for the 100-plus in attendance and the players enjoying the NHL's return after the lockout scrapped the 2004-05 season.

"It's always nice to score, whether it's in practice, scrimmage or a game," a smiling Gaustad said.

The Sabres delivered everything that could be expected on opening day: great goals, dazzling saves, crunching hits and even a fight between enforcers Andrew Peters and Sean McMorrow.

"There was nothing to dislike about the scrimmage," coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought the pace was real good. If you want to judge intensity by hitting and skating, even the players said, 'Wow, that's different from the (informal practices at the Amherst) Pepsi Center.' When the actual scrimmage intensity hits it is a lot different, and you can't prepare for it."

"I think everything about today was a success," said center Chris Drury, who had two goals in the White's 4-3 victory that went to a shootout. "I think everyone had fun today. I think it was a pretty good pace for the first day."

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As expected, all three goalies competing for the starting job -- Miller, Mika Noronen and Martin Biron -- were asked about the situation. As expected, they all said they were just going to take care of their own game and let the staff and management make the decisions.

Miller, who attended the U.S. Olympic team camp last week, said one of his advantages is he's played with the new rules that restrict where a goalie can play the puck. The American Hockey League enforced the same rules last season.

"A lot of the guys are asking me questions," Miller said. "I'm not going to hold back on my teammates, but at the same time I feel like my experience is going to pay off. When I think back to the beginning of last year, I was very uncomfortable with a lot of the things, and it actually cost me some goals early in the season. So I think at this point it's probably a benefit playing the puck. But stopping the puck is the same: Get in the way."

* * *

Sabres players are trekking through the dressing rooms and corridors in gray T-shirts with slogans invented by the coaching staff. The back of the shirts are emblazoned with either "Heart and Desire" or "Demand and Deliver."

"It's an example for how we have to play and the attitude that we have to have," Ruff said. " 'Heart and Desire,' and 'Demand and Deliver.' Demand a lot of yourself and your teammates, and go out and deliver."

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Other highlights of the opening day of camp included Red squad left wing Thomas Vanek setting up linemate J.P. Dumont for a give-and-go goal shortly after scoring on his own; Red goalie Scott Stirling, a nonroster invitee, stopping point-range opportunities by Gaustad and Taylor Pyatt; and Red defenseman Doug Janik and White right wing Patrick Kaleta, an Angola native, rattling the boards with checks.

The Sabres return to the ice today with a Red squad practice at 10 a.m. and a Black-White scrimmage at 11:30 a.m. It is free and open to the public.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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