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Finally, MacArthur gets a turn

Clarke MacArthur patiently waited in Rochester, watching teammate after teammate depart for the NHL. He was about the only constant the Amerks had, one of just two guys to play all 26 games. He figured if he kept recording points in the AHL, he'd eventually get his first call to the big leagues.

It happened Tuesday.

The Buffalo Sabres summoned MacArthur for his NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens in HSBC Arena. He was supposed to dress in place of an ailing Jochen Hecht, but the German winger felt good enough to play. The Sabres instead scratched Andrew Peters and put MacArthur on the fourth line with center Jiri Novotny and right wing Adam Mair.

"It was good," MacArthur said. "The game is a lot quicker up here than the minors, and I think it'd take a couple games to adjust. I just hope I can stick around."

The Sabres leave today on a two-game road trip, and they hadn't decided whether MacArthur would accompany them. He played 7:02, registered two third-period shots and was on the ice for the Canadiens' third goal.

"We got scored on once tonight, and we can't let that happen," MacArthur said. "It's a tough loss overall."

MacArthur, a third-round pick of the Sabres in the 2003 entry draft, was one of the final cuts in training camp. The 21-year-old is excelling in his second season in Rochester. He leads the Amerks with 34 points off 12 goals and 22 assists.

MacArthur became the sixth Sabre to make his NHL debut this season, not counting goalie Adam Dennis, who dressed four times but did not play.

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Hecht is suffering from the flu, and for a while Tuesday it didn't look like he'd be able to play. But he was given fluids in the afternoon, took part in the pregame skate and pronounced himself ready.

He played 18:24 with four shots and three missed shots.

"I thought he did all right," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "As the game went on I thought he got better. But I don't think he was normal, but give him credit. He gutted it out."

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The Sabres continue to lead the Eastern Conference, and they're still on pace to lead the conference at the NHL All-Star Game.

Goalie Ryan Miller, defenseman Brian Campbell and forward Daniel Briere held on to their All-Star starting spots Tuesday as the league released updated voting totals. Only 13 days remain before the voting at NHL.com closes.

Campbell received more than 93,000 votes since last week's update to vault into first among defensemen. He has 422,573 votes, a healthy lead over second-place Sheldon Souray (394,226) of Montreal. Campbell trails only Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby (626,175) among Eastern Conference vote-getters.

Miller is the top goaltender with 410,660 votes, more than 70,000 ahead of New Jersey's Martin Brodeur (336,079).

The top three forwards are named starters, and Briere holds the No. 3 spot with 350,699 votes. He trails Crosby and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin (356,215). Other Sabres forwards in the top 15 are Maxim Afinogenov (fourth, 342,022), Chris Drury (seventh, 245,035) and write-in candidate Thomas Vanek (14th, 133,195).

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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