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Ennis perks up Buffalo's offense

A late-night call and an early-morning flight didn't bother Tyler Ennis. His second NHL game was an emergency call, just like his first. And the result was the same: Instant offense in a Buffalo win.

Ennis had his first two NHL assists in the Sabres' 7-1 romp over Tampa Bay on Saturday night. When he came up from Portland for one game in November, he got his first NHL goal in a victory at Philadelphia.

"I just came here to work hard, play my game and not do anything different," said the 20-year-old Ennis. "It's nice to be on the power play. I'm honored to be out there in those situations. It was fun."

Injuries to Tim Connolly and Patrick Kaleta paved the way for Ennis' return. Coach Lindy Ruff would only say Connolly has a lower-body ailment and Kaleta has an upper-body problem, but Connolly's situation is believed to be related to a shot he took off the foot last week during the team's Southern road swing.

Buffalo's injury troubles got deeper as Thomas Vanek did not play in the third period because of an undetermined lower-body injury. Ruff said, "I'm only guessing it's going to be a little bit of time," when asked about Vanek. Kaleta is believed to be the most seriously injured of the group.

Ennis got the call late Friday night in Providence, R.I. He got to his apartment in Portland around 1:30 a.m., slept for an hour and was on a 6 a.m. flight.

The 5-foot-9 Ennis played left wing on a line with Jochen Hecht centering and Jason Pominville on the right side. Ennis hit town leading AHL rookies with 65 points (23 goals, 42 assists). He was Buffalo's second first-round pick in the 2008 draft (joining Tyler Myers).

Ennis assisted on Buffalo's second goal, scored by Derek Roy on a first-period power play, and then made a beautiful feed to Adam Mair in the second period for the Sabres' sixth tally by pulling the puck around a Tampa Bay defenseman and feeding Mair for a tap-in.

"I knew he was a talented guy," Pominville said. "I thought he stepped in on the power play and looked great. He skates well, he competes, works hard. He's good with the puck, has good vision. He's enjoyable to play with."

"I didn't know what to expect my first year in pro," Ennis said. "I just wanted to work as hard as I could [at Portland] and hopefully play well. I got a great opportunity. They put me first line, power play. When you're with great players, sometimes you don't have to do too much."

Ennis has been so impressive in his first two outings that Ruff was asked if the Sabres would use one of their remaining official recalls for him to keep him on the roster even when some of the injured players return. Otherwise, he would have to go back to Portland.

"It was obviously a good night," Ruff said. "There's going to be tougher places for him to play and tougher situations for him to play. I like his creativity. I like what he can do. We'll just evaluate it. Obviously, making plays is very important. If he can help our power play and be creative, that's important too. It will be an evaluation process for us."

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With Raffi Torres, Kaleta and Connolly all out, the Sabres dressed all seven of their defensemen. Andrej Sekera took shifts at forward, with Ennis and Pominville among the players who double-shifted on the fourth line with Adam Mair and Matt Ellis.

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Ennis was one of 14 Sabres who registered points. Roy's four-point night was the third by a Sabre this season. Roy's hat trick was the second for Buffalo this year and the fourth of his career. Pominville had the other Buffalo hat trick March 18 at Tampa Bay.

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In their four sets of home games on back-to-back nights this year, the Sabres went 1-1 twice and 1-0-1 in the other two. . . . The Sabres improved to 26-0-0 when leading after two periods and 53-1-6 in such situations the last two years . . . Chris Butler played in his 100th career game Friday.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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Sabres 7

Lightning 1

Slapshots: Playoff berth clinched as Roy's hat trick leads offense, Lalime records 200th career victory in net. ...
Ennis gets two assists in second NHL game. ... Vanek leaves with lower-body injury.

Fast fact: The Sabres' last hat trick at HSBC Arena was by Vanek on Feb. 4, 2009 against Toronto.

Next game: at Boston, 7:05 p.m. Monday in TD BankNorth Garden

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