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Struggling Afinogenov takes a seat

Maxim Afinogenov was cheering loud when linemate Thomas Vanek scored the winning goal Friday night. He was cheering from the bench, however.

Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff went down to three lines for much of the final period in Game Two against New York, and Afinogenov was the most notable forward left out. Drew Stafford took Afinogenov's spot at right wing with center Derek Roy and Vanek, and the line scored to give the Sabres a 3-2 victory.

Afinogenov finished with no shots, three giveaways and two hits in 12:26. He played just one shift for 1:08 in the third period.

"I think Max has been struggling," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "He's had a tough time, but he's come off a broken wrist and shoulder injury earlier in the year. He can't find his game right now."

Afinogenov has a goal and three assists in the playoffs, but nothing has come against the Rangers.

"It hasn't been terrible," Ruff said of Afinogenov's game, "but it's the time of year where you've got to go with hunches. You've got to go with who you think is going the best.

"He was great on the bench. He was cheering guys on."

Afinogenov missed 21 games with the wrist injury and didn't return until the final week of the regular season. He didn't have his renowned puck control Friday, and without that the bench beckoned.

"As long as we win, it doesn't matter," Afinogenov said. "As long as we win, it's good. It's a game. Sometimes you need to change something."

***

Both goals allowed by the Sabres came short-handed, and they played the final 1:54 with co-captain Daniel Briere in the penalty box for cross-checking. He witnessed one goal from the sin bin, and Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said the team wouldn't make Briere sit through another.

"Danny's been a great leader for us, and you've got to bail him out," Miller said. "I didn't see the call. I was kind of curious maybe why [Sean] Avery didn't get a call for punching him in the face [on a late-game faceoff]. I don't know. That seems more blatant. Just curious."

***

Rangers defenseman Michal Roszival, who suffered a leg injury in Game One and was listed as day-to-day, played Friday night. A lot. New York's No. 1 blue-liner was on the ice for a game-high 24:58 with one hit and one blocked shot.

"He was excellent," New York coach Tom Renney said. "He's a warrior, no doubt about that, and you have to give him credit for the courage he plays with."

***

Now available: Soupy, the T-shirt.

Brian Campbell and Summit Educational Resources have teamed on a T-shirt fundraiser that features the Sabres defenseman as a cartoon character. The shirt is $20, and all proceeds will benefit Summit Academy, a school designed to help autistic children.

The shirt will make its debut today at Summit's autism walk-a-thon that starts at 11:30 a.m. at 150 Stahl Road in Amherst. It will also be available at area restaurants (including Mississippi Mudd's and Old Man River), Dave and Adam's Card World and at www.summited.org.

"I'm excited about it," Campbell said. "I guess any time you get a picture done of yourself, you're like, 'Ah, That's not me,' or whatever, but everybody else likes it a lot, and it helps the school. It'll be fun, so hopefully you'll see people wearing them around town."

***

It appears Mom knows best in the Avery clan.

Avery, known more for his off-ice antics as on-ice aptitude, had his mother in attendance. Anyone hoping that might force him to tone down his act was mistaken.

"She likes when I'm behaving poorly," Avery said. "She's used to it by now."

***

Television broadcaster Pierre McGuire, stationed between the benches for telecasts, was gashed in the forehead by Rangers defenseman Karel Rachunek's stick in Game One.

The clips package was being run on dressing room televisions as the media entered New York's room. Upon its completion, Marek Malik turned to reporters and said, "Watch out, guys." Minutes later, he (inadvertently?) struck a scribe with his sock while tossing it to its cart.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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