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Fifteen sent to Amerks

The Buffalo Sabres have at least five more decisions to make before opening night.

The club whittled its preseason roster to 28 players, five more than the opening-night limit, after assigning a group to the Rochester Americans.

Three of those players -- center Chris Taylor, winger Sean McMorrow and defenseman David Cullen -- must clear waivers before they can officially join the Amerks when their training camp opens Monday. Other NHL teams have until noon Monday to claim them.

The Sabres designated a dozen others outright: forwards Jiri Novotny, Daniel Paille, Michael Ryan, Chris Thorburn, Clarke MacArthur, Dylan Hunter and Mark Mancari; defensemen Nathan Paetsch, Branislav Fabry and John Adams; and goalies Scott Stirling and Adam Dennis.

Still battling to stick are forwards Paul Gaustad and Jason Pominville and defenseman Doug Janik.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said the choices were more difficult than in years past. He specifically praised the performances of Novotny, McMorrow and Paetsch.

"Several of those players had very good camps, but we're limited on room," Ruff said. "They're not easy decisions. When usually you go through the first round of cuts you're looking at second-tier guys. Some of these guys will definitely play (in the NHL)."

Taylor reasoned he was in a can't-lose situation. The Rochester fan favorite makes his home in the area and wouldn't mind playing for the Amerks again. But if he doesn't clear waivers, it means he'll be back in the NHL.

"Every guy's goal is to play in the NHL," Taylor said. "If it takes getting picked up on waivers to get there, then you gotta be happy about that."

The waiver wire could provide some interesting moments around the NHL in the coming days. The salary cap and altered personnel rules under the new collective bargaining agreement might expose some desirables.

The Sabres almost certainly must expose a few more assets before opening night. The only players left in camp who don't need to clear waivers are forwards Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy and goalie Ryan Miller, and all are expected to make the team.

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Hunter, Mancari and Dennis could eventually return to their junior teams as overage players. Fabry is another unsigned prospect, while Adams was in camp on a free-agent tryout.

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The Sabres have endured a melancholy week. General Manager Darcy Regier, Ruff and six players flew to Chicago on Friday to attend the funeral of former teammate Curtis Brown's 5-month-old daughter, who died unexpectedly.

Amerks assistant coach Doug Houda returned to Alberta earlier in the week for his mother's funeral, and goalie Dennis temporarily left the team after his uncle, who was only in his 30s, passed away.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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