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Video to kick off Sabres' quest for the Cup Tribute to fans, team will be shown tonight as playoffs begin against Islanders

Tonight's the night.

The words on the minds and lips of Buffalo Sabres fans as their team begins the quest for hockey's greatest prize also are a line from the song "Better Days" by homegrown rockers the Goo Goo Dolls.

The song will serve as a spine-tingling soundtrack to a video that will be shown on the Jumbotron in HSBC Arena and aired as part of MSG Network game broadcasts throughout the Stanley Cup playoff run.

"And you ask me what I want this year,

"And I try to make this kind and clear,

"Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days," the Goos sing as a video snapshot of a game-day-in-the-life of Western New York unfolds on the screen.

"The lyrics are a perfect fit," said Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn, who suggested using the song. "The words embody the dreams and hopes of this team and this community."

A team generally considered among the best in the 37-year history of the franchise will try to become the first to hoist the Stanley Cup as it begins a best-of-seven series tonight against the New York Islanders.

The sold-out playoff game starts at 8, but pregame activities will kick off at 5:30 outside the arena. The festivities will include music, food and an outdoor broadcast of the game on a giant screen for fans who weren't lucky enough to snare tickets.

The "Party on the Plaza" will take place before all Sabres home playoff games.

Once inside the arena, ticketed fans will get a special Round One/Game One souvenir. The Sabres will be handing out white T-shirts and are asking fans to put them on to create a "Buffalo white-out" to freeze out the Islanders.

Fans also will find gold pompoms at their seats to help them cheer on the team.

The team also has restocked the Sabres Store in HSBC Arena in preparation for an expected blitz of sales.

"We now have Northeast Division Championship apparel and hats and have loaded up on everything else. We also have the special-edition Rick Jeanneret line of caps and T-shirts," said Sabres spokesman Michael Gilbert.

The team still is facing back orders of eight to 10 weeks for official jerseys, which have been a high-demand item throughout the season.

As if there weren't enough excitement among fans already, the video tribute to local residents and the team they love should kick it up another notch.

The video begins at dawn with views of rural landscapes and city skylines. Sabres faithful head to school and work, while HSBC Arena staff and Sabres players go through their game-day rituals. As momentum builds toward game time, fans stream into HSBC Arena, and the team readies to take the ice.

Live concert footage of the Goo Goo Dolls' March 20 appearance on the St. Bonaventure University campus is interwoven throughout the one-minute, 30-second video, which culminates with a fleeting image of Lord Stanley's elusive silver cup.

" 'cause tonight's the night the world begins again," sings Johnny Rzeznik.

"We showed it at the team dinner, and the guys loved it," Quinn said. "It tugs at your heart and gives you goose bumps."

Sabres broadcast producer Matt Gould masterminded the marriage of game-day postcard and music video. Armed with a camera, he traveled around Western New York capturing images from such diverse locations as Main Street in East Aurora, a downtown coffee shop, construction sites, suburban neighborhoods and even General Motors Corp.'s Tonawanda Engine Plant.

"This team and the community are so tied to each other. We really wanted to celebrate that relationship," Gould said.

Gould was part of the Goo Goo Dolls production team for the band's 2004 DVD that featured a Niagara Square concert and video clips around town. He said the band members were "very gracious" about helping out the Sabres.

"They're Buffalo born and bred and continue to have ties here. They're fans, too, so they were excited to be a part of what we are doing," he said.

"Better Days" was released as a single from the Goos' 2006 CD "Let Love In."

A 30-second, hard-hitting highlight reel with an orchestral score will follow the opening video, with a Sabres/Islanders highlight video, set to the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" after that.

The video package will be rerun throughout the Sabres' playoff push, and also will be available on the team Web site (www.sabres.com).

The start of the playoffs also has prompted some high-profile wagers between elected officials over the upstate/downstate hockey rivalry.

Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra wagered a bucket of chicken wings against a bushel of Long Island clams in a bet with Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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