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Rochester shuttle assists the cause

BOSTON -- Daniel Paille has been with the Buffalo Sabres for only eight games this season. He picked up his fifth assist Monday in the Sabres' 3-2 shootout loss to Boston. The production helps show that the Sabres' call-up system is working.

The decision of who gets to leave Rochester and join the big club falls almost solely to Randy Cunneyworth. He's in his seventh season as the Amerks' head coach, and the Sabres trust him to decide whether it's Paille, Drew Stafford, Clarke MacArthur or some other hot player who would best help Buffalo.

"We don't get to see them that much, and we have to trust what they're seeing," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We go to Randy Cunneyworth. He has a conversation about who he feels is going the best, and that's just the way the chain of command works."

The Sabres like to leave the choice to Cunneyworth because, as Ruff said, the Amerks coach has a better feel of who deserves the promotion. The organization would have bitter players if they just summoned someone based on video or numbers while another player was more effective at the time.

"If it didn't work that way, I think the players down there would get disappointed," Ruff said. "Then it's up to them to fulfill their part up here, and if they don't, their chance of staying isn't that good."

Paille is back with the Sabres for the third time this season after an extended stint last year. The journey to the NHL always starts when Paille gets word from Cunneyworth, and the chats haven't lost their thrill despite the fact the two have had a few.

"Definitely, I always get excited," Paille said.

The rookie played with center Chris Drury and right wing Ales Kotalik, and he assisted on the Sabres' first goal.

Said Paille of the call-up decision-making process: "I don't know [how they make their decision], but I'm just glad to be here."

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Sabres left wing Jochen Hecht didn't finish Monday's game. He was talking with trainer Tim Macre behind the bench with five minutes to play in regulation, then came out for a shift with four minutes to go. After leaving the ice, Hecht walked to the dressing room and didn't return. His status will be updated today.

Ruff said forward Paul Gaustad, who didn't make the trip to Boston, is "day-to-day" with his upper body injury.

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The player who had the biggest impact on Daniel Briere being awarded $5 million in arbitration is having the biggest impact on the Bruins. Marc Savard signed a four-year, $20 million deal with Boston last summer, and many people snickered. He was coming off a career year in Atlanta with 96 points, and the general feeling was he would tail off.

Instead, Savard leads the Bruins with 57 points. He picked up his 17th goal in the first period to go with his 40 assists, which were tied for fourth in the league.

The two $5 million men have similar numbers again. Briere leads the Sabres with 52 points, scoring 16 times with 36 assists.

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The Sabres continued to receive good support on the road, with Sabres jerseys dotting TD Banknorth Garden. They also received a boost from a few members of the American Hockey League's Portland Pirates.

Drew Miller and Geoff Peters play for the Anaheim affiliate based in Portland, Maine, and they made the trip to Massachusetts to watch their brothers, Ryan Miller and Andrew Peters.

"I hadn't seen him since September," Ryan Miller said, "and it helped me kind of focus and relax."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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