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Gerbe returns to familiar territory

Nathan Gerbe's latest call-up to the Buffalo Sabres was a homecoming.

The former Boston College Frozen Four hero played his first game in his old college stomping grounds Monday night in TD Garden as the Sabres met the Boston Bruins. Gerbe played several games in the building as a collegian, including the prestigious Beanpot Tournament.

"It's pretty exciting because I definitely have a lot of roots here," Gerbe said. "I played some pretty critical games here in the Garden against [Boston University] so it's a lot of fun to come back. I've been looking forward to playing in Boston for a while since I turned pro."

Gerbe was happy to see a quasi-Portland reunion with the Sabres as Mark Mancari joined him on the drive here from the AHL club on Sunday and Tyler Ennis joined the big club for Saturday's game against Tampa Bay. Portland coach Kevin Dineen was also on hand to watch his ex-charges work for the Sabres.

"It makes you feel more comfortable when you see other guys you know and have played with," Gerbe said. "You get to settle in and it's really good to see them have some success."

"They all played well," coach Lindy Ruff said after the 3-2 win. "Nathan might have been the strongest tonight but Ennis and Mancari played well too. I wanted to play a four-line game because there's a lot of hockey coming up. I like what all of them did."

Gerbe, who was skating Monday with Paul Gaustad and Mike Grier, had a goal and an assist in two games with the Sabres in December and his tally Dec. 9 against Washington was the first of his NHL career. But he suffered a groin injury and never got back in the lineup before going back to Portland. Once back in the AHL, he's dealt with concussion issues as well.

"I thought I played well those two games [with the Sabres]," he said. "You can always be better but I thought I was confident, played strong and my speed was good. The injuries have been tough."

Gerbe, of course, became a folk hero here when he was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2008 Frozen Four as he led BC to a national championship. His alma mater is going back to this year's Frozen Four after Sunday's 9-7 win over Yale.

"I was joking around with the coaches about how defense wins championships," Gerbe said. "They were laughing at me."

Boston College's win put the Eagles in the Frozen Four for the third time in the last four years. They'll meet Miami (Ohio) on April 8 in Detroit. The other national semifinal is upstart RIT facing Wisconsin.

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Cape Breton center Luke Adam, a second-round pick of the Sabres in 2008, is one of three players nominated for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Most Valuable Player award. The 19-year-old finished fifth in league scoring with 49 goals and 90 points in 56 games, a huge bounceback year after a serious spleen injury last season.

General Manager Darcy Regier would like to get Adam signed to a pro contract for Portland but isn't having much luck.

"You have to let it run its course," Regier said. "We'd like to get [Portland] as much help as we can. But on the other hand, the harder you try and the more money they want, too."

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Ryan Miller has stopped nine of 10 penalty shots in his career. . . . Paul Gaustad has a goal in three straight games after just one in his previous 28. . . . Chris Butler was a healthy scratch.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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