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Sabres' hot line rings 'em up

It looked like something special from the start.

When the Buffalo Sabres traded for Daniel Briere late in the 2002-03 season, they put him on a line with wingers J.P. Dumont and Jochen Hecht. They produced a few eye-opening moments in a last-place season, creating hope that some day they'd be part of something special.

It's safe to say a seven-game winning streak and a buzzing community equate to something special.

The Sabres are on a roll rarely seen in their history, and every player on the roster is part of it. But while each of the four lines can take its place as the headliner, no act is tougher to follow than Briere, Dumont and Hecht.

They've created goals in six of the seven games during this hot streak, leaving people gasping at their creativity and their toughness. They've combined for 12 goals and 23 assists, as their health concerns have been replaced by jubilant celebrations.

"This is the most fun for a long time on the ice," Hecht said Wednesday.

They were together early in the season, but Dumont and Briere were beginning to feel their sports hernias. It slowed them down and nothing meshed. Both had surgery, with Briere the last to return March 1, the first game after the Olympic break.

It took one game to get back the chemistry -- a 4-2 loss to Atlanta -- but it's been an offensive firebomb and an unbeaten streak ever since.

"Sometimes it just clicks," Dumont said. "That's what's happening for us right now."

Here's a closer look at why the trio is successful. It's a winning balance of doing some things equal yet having characteristics that set each person apart.

>Center of attention

Briere is the centerpiece. He is the fastest of the three, with the ability to pull away from defenses. He was right next to a Washington defender at the blue line in Tuesday's 6-4 victory, then two strides later he was all alone for his second goal of the game.

The center doesn't have to be alone to be dangerous, though. Despite being listed at just 5-foot-10 and 179 pounds, few NHLers cut to the front of the net as frequently. On his first goal against the Capitals, he had the puck behind the goal line and drove hard to the crease, depositing the puck then dipping between two defenders an instant late in burying him.

"I know once in a while I'm going to get thrown to the ground and I'm going to have to pay the price," Briere said, "but the feeling of scoring the goals beats by a hundred times getting pounded or hit hard to the ground."

The 28-year-old likes to have possession of the puck behind the net, and not just so he can cut to the front. Defenders often shift to double-team him.

"When we see that," Hecht said, "we try to get open or crash the net to try and create room for him."

Briere has five goals and 10 assists with a plus-5 rating in the last seven games. He's averaging 17:52 of ice time during the streak, boosted by 4:58 of power-play time per game.

"I knew at some point if they gave us a chance to stick together we were going to get going together," Briere said.

>The right stuff

Dumont plays the right wing, and he does it with a mix of smoothness and grit.

He started to prove his offensive instincts in junior hockey, averaging almost 50 goals his last three seasons. He's good at finding the defensive gaps, and his shot is hard and accurate when he does get open.

The 27-year-old is the most solidly built of the three. He carries 203 pounds on his 6-1 frame, and he can use it to throw a check or fight one off.

"He's a little bit of a disturber out there," Briere said. "He's got that edge."

Dumont also joins the power-play units, averaging 4:55 with the man advantage among his 16:35 of ice time the past seven games. He's boosted the streak with four goals, four assists and a plus-4 rating.

"We know each other so well that we don't have to worry about any plays," Dumont said. "We know we can trust each other."

>Never left out

The left wing was regarded as the Sabres' best two-way player last season, and after a slow start he's close to regaining that title.

Hecht's specialty is puck control. He's 6-1, 191, and he knows how to keep a defender away from the puck or force an opponent off it. His ability to maintain possession along the boards allows Briere and Dumont to take chances, by breaking out of their zone early or going to the net before a defender anticipates it.

"We know that if he's got possession of the puck, we know we can try to cheat offensively," Dumont said. "We know that he's not going to lose the puck."

The 28-year-old is also versatile, taking faceoffs on the left side, where his left-handed shot has an advantage over Briere's right-handed stance.

Hecht has three goals and nine assists during the winning streak, his plus-9 rating boosting his season total to plus-12, tops among Sabres forwards. He's also killing penalties for 2 1/2 minutes per game while skating for 16:03 since the reunion.

Said Hecht: "We know where we're going on the ice, what we're doing and what we're capable of doing."


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