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Barnaby must leave 'Enforcers'

Matthew Barnaby's hiring by ESPN as its National Hockey League analyst means the end of his participation as co-host of "The Enforcers," the Time Warner Cable show he did with his good friend Rob Ray.

Barnaby said ESPN feared burnout and denied his request to continue doing the weekly program. ESPN's decision is perfectly understandable and routine by network standards.

Barnaby is hoping to make guest appearances with Ray, his former roommate with the Buffalo Sabres.

ESPN is allowing Barnaby to continue working with TSN, the Canadian sports network of which it is a minority owner.

TWC is planning to continue "The Enforcers" after it finds a full-time replacement for Barnaby.

"We definitely plan to find a new partner for Rob because the show has been very successful," said Time Warner spokesman Robin Wolfgang.

Barnaby, who said he upset some Sabres fans last season when he predicted on "The Enforcers" that the team wouldn't make the playoffs, is slightly more upbeat this season.

"I think they're going to challenge for the eighth spot," he said. "I've loved what they've done with [signing goalie] Ryan Miller -- they learned from their mistakes -- and they've got Ryan Miller as the cornerstone. They got [Jason] Pominville. [Thomas] Vanek is going to have a great year. Derek Roy. They have a lot of things in place.

"I think they're really going to miss and see how valuable Brian Campbell was. There are very few defensemen who can take the puck one end to the other end and set up in another team's zone without getting touched. But at that price tag, you let him go."

* Speaking of price tags, Barnaby didn't second-guess the decision of his predecessor, Barry Melrose, to leave the comforts of ESPN to become the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. "I understand why he left," said Barnaby. "At $2 million a year, I think everybody would leave."

* The Buffalo Bills' 31-14 victory over the St. Louis Rams was the highest-rated game in the NFL last weekend. It averaged a 38.8 rating. The lowest-rated market? Phoenix. The Arizona Cardinals' 56-35 loss to the New York Jets averaged a 12.2 rating or about one-third of the Bills' rating.

While CBS is sending one of its lower tier announcing teams -- Bill Macatee and Steve Beuerlein -- to cover Sunday's game in Arizona, the network is sending one of its stronger teams to cover the San Diego at Buffalo game Oct. 19. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf, considered CBS' second team, will work the Chargers game.

* ESPN's decision to concentrate more on football and less on celebrity nonsense during Monday Night Football appears to be paying off. Ratings are surging. Of course, it doesn't hurt when games go into overtime as Pittsburgh's win over Baltimore did Monday night. The first five games -- ESPN carried a doubleheader in Week One -- this season averaged a 9.6 national rating, up 14 percent from a year ago. The five telecasts are the highest-rated cable programs of the year.

Locally, ratings are up about 30 percent, averaging a 9.6 rating this season compared to a 7.4 rating after five games in 2007. The Sept. 15 game between Philadelphia and Dallas had a 14.1 rating, which raised the average.

ESPN's pregame show, Sunday NFL Countdown, will include a feature, "Marshawn Lynch Unmasked: Beast Mode."

* News that TWC has added MSG HD to its high definition package doesn't have any impact on Sabres road telecasts. The Sabres home games will be carried in HD this season, but the road games will not be. The HD programming on MSG HD will only involve the programs featuring New York teams, such as the NBA's New York Knicks.

* TWC's recent addition of HD sports channels has to please sports fans that get MSG HD, TBS HD (which carries the division playoff round and the American League championship rounds) and SNY HD (which carries the New York Mets). All three HD channels are on Time Warner's free tier. However, NHL HD and Outdoor Channel HD are on the system's sports tier, which costs an additional $4 monthly and includes several other sports channels that aren't carried in high definition.


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