The mood was buoyant in the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room. They had just beaten the Boston Bruins, 6-2, Sunday night in sold-out HSBC Arena. Six straight victories have a way of generating smiles.
One got the impression, however, hockey wasn't the foremost thought on the minds of many Sabres. In light of the sobering news that coach Lindy Ruff's 11-year-old daughter, Madeleine, has an unidentified mass on her brain, thoughts clearly were channeled on family.
The dressing room, generally reserved for team meetings and interviews, looked more like Romper Room, as some of the players' children scurried about.
Gentle giant Andrew Peters walked in with Martin Biron's son and handed him off so the goalie could finish talking to reporters with the toddler perched atop his knee. Teppo Numminen's daughters pranced around while daddy put on his shoes and socks. Mike Grier's son tried out several locker stalls to see which one had the comfiest seat.
Many other Sabres cradled their kids -- probably a little tighter and with a little more perspective on the vulnerability of youth than they had a couple of days before.
Ales Kotalik posed with an arm around his father, visiting from the Czech Republic, in front of the winger's locker.
Some fans in the upper bowl let Ruff know they were pulling for him with a large sign that read "God bless Madeleine."
The team asked reporters before Ruff's postgame news conference not to ask him any questions about his daughter.
"That's a tough subject," said Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere, the father of three small sons. "The only thing we can do is keep winning and keep the mood a little happier. All we can do is say a few prayers for his daughter and support him as much as we can."
Biron picked up the easiest win of his career Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. He relieved starting goalie Ryan Miller at the second intermission and inherited a 5-4 deficit. But the Sabres in the third period scored two goals while allowing only one Flyers shot.
"I told him previous to Saturday that Sunday would be his game," Ruff said of Biron getting Sunday's start. "I thought the third period would be a little warm-up for him if he got a little action. He probably got warmer sitting on the bench."
Biron became the first goalie since Craig Billington in December 1998 to face one or no shots and earn a win. Billington played 112 seconds in the Colorado Avalanche's 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
When Numminen scored Saturday he avoided breaking Jimmy Thomson's ignominious, 58-year record of most points in a season without a goal.
Now Thomson's record is in the hands of Florida Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has zero goals among his 32 points. Bouwmeester has taken 136 shots, third most on his team. Numminen had taken only 48 shots before he finally punched one through.
For the third straight game, the Sabres scratched wingers Taylor Pyatt and Peters, and defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick. All are healthy.
Defenseman Brian Campbell dressed after sitting out most of Saturday's game with an irregular heartbeat he experienced in the first period. He saw a doctor upon returning to Buffalo and was cleared.
The auction for the blue-and-gold Pat LaFontaine jerseys worn during the pregame skate the night the Sabres retired his No. 16 will end at 9 tonight.
Each was signed by LaFontaine and the player who wore it. The commemorative patch worn that night on the game jersey was removed and stitched onto each practice version.
To place a bid, visit www.sabres.com.