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Co-captains: Drury, Briere

Chris Drury and Daniel Briere were part of a five-player rotation that shared the Buffalo Sabres' captaincy the last time the team played. This season, they will have to share only with each other.

Coach Lindy Ruff announced Wednesday that Drury and Briere have been named co-captains for the 2005-06 season. Drury was the captain in November 2003 and March-April 2004, while Briere wore the "C" in February 2004. They also were alternate captains at times during that season.

"It's based on what they've brought to our team: their leadership; work ethic on and off the ice; the respect of their teammates," Ruff said. "We're going to alternate night to night, and if they're not a 'C' they'll be an 'A'."

Ruff said he hasn't decided on this year's alternates but mentioned the leadership abilities of Jochen Hecht, Mike Grier, J.P. Dumont, Jay McKee and Teppo Numminen.

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With new rules that emphasize speed and an ice-time hole created by Alexei Zhitnik's departure, the Sabres are expecting a lot from right wing Maxim Afinogenov and defenseman Dmitri Kalinin. The team also should be a little thankful the Russian compatriots are in North America.

Fans in Detroit and Atlanta are facing the prospect of having their marquee players remain in their Russian homeland this season. The Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk are playing in Russia and could stay there unless the NHL squads meet their contract demands.

That could become a growing trend. Some Russian clubs are owned by billionaires who pay NHL-type salaries.

"I got some other choices to stay in Russia, but you know I chose here because I wanted to play in the NHL and see how the season goes," Afinogenov said. "Russia's my home. All my friends are there, my parents, my grandmother. I live in my apartment in Moscow where I was born. It was pretty exciting. But you know the NHL is the NHL, and I want to play here."

San Jose's Alex Korolyuk, who scored 19 goals in 2003-04, is choosing to stay in Russia because of family.

"I think they get almost the same money as here, so it's a personal decision," Kalinin said. "It's different over there. It's just a different world. You know all the guys, all your friends that you've played together for a long time."

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Toni Lydman, the newest Sabre, is still eagerly anticipating his first action. The Finnish defenseman was having immigration problems and can't practice until they are settled.

"Well, I'd like to get on the ice, but it's good to meet all the guys," said Lydman, who arrived in town Sunday.

Ruff said he expected Lydman, acquired Aug. 25 from Calgary for a third-round pick in next year's entry draft, to be on the ice tonight.

"I think they got me here because they think my style might fit the new rules with long passes and stuff," Lydman said.

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The Sabres are holding an evening practice tonight in HSBC Arena. The White squad will practice at 5 p.m., followed by a scrimmage between the Black and Red teams at about 7 p.m. The event, which is free to the public, will feature play-by-play by Rick Jeanneret and Jim Lorenz, and microphones on a coach and referee.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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