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All-Stars will remain at three

Buffalo Sabres fans upset their squad didn't put any more players on the All-Star roster should take comfort. Without their zealotry, the Sabres probably wouldn't enjoy the largest presence in the Jan. 24 showcase in Dallas.

Earlier in the week, on-line balloting placed three Sabres in the Eastern Conference starting lineup. When the rest of the team was announced Saturday afternoon, no other Sabres were added -- not Maxim Afinogenov, not Chris Drury, not Thomas Vanek.

Still, the Sabres and San Jose Sharks are the only clubs to send three players.

"I almost expected, given that we had three starters, it was unlikely more would be added not because of a merit basis but more on a numbers basis," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said. "I made that assumption that if we had the starting head coach and three starters, it was probably unlikely we would have any more."

Vanek was named to the NHL YoungStars Game, an exhibition featuring the top first- and second-year NHLers Jan. 23 in Dallas.

Vanek wasn't upset he didn't get tabbed for the All-Star Game. Beyond starters Daniel Briere, Brian Campbell and Ryan Miller, there were Drury and Afinogenov to consider as well.

"There's a lot of other guys on our team that could have went," said Vanek, who was tied with Drury for the team lead with 23 goals heading into Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in HSBC Arena. "I thought for sure one of those two [Drury or Afinogenov] would make it. But I guess maybe it's a numbers thing, but they deserved it."

The Sabres haven't had more than one All-Star since 1998-99 and haven't had more than two since 1989-90.

"I don't get very disappointed over All-Star team selections," Regier said. "I'm more concerned with who's in the playoffs and for how long."

St. Louis Blues winger Lee Stempniak of West Seneca also was chosen to play in the Young-Stars Game.

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The NHL stated the All-Star "roster additions were selected by the NHL's hockey operations department after consultation with league general managers."

That was news to Regier and Lightning GM Jay Feaster.

"Not that I want to [be involved in the selection process]. I don't want it," Regier said. "But I don't like when somebody says we've had involvement and we haven't -- or I haven't."

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The Sabres on Saturday recalled winger Dan Paille from the Rochester Americans. He skated on the fourth line instead of tough guy Andrew Peters.

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Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier came to Buffalo with 22 penalty minutes and picked up six in the first period.

The first pick of the 1998 draft held in HSBC Arena, Lecavalier retaliated to an Afinogenov punch in the face with a couple of shots to the back of Afinogenov's noggin and got booked four minutes for roughing. Lecavalier later was penalized for slashing Afinogenov, but in between scored a pretty goal to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

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The Sabres' three All-Stars are their first from North America since Pat LaFontaine in 1992-93. Since then, they have sent Alexander Mogilny, Dominik Hasek, Alexei Zhitnik and Miroslav Satan.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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