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New kids on the block
Buffalo gets balanced scoring in blowout

Lindy Ruff was fired up Wednesday morning, though that's hardly news. What had the Buffalo Sabres coach's dander up this time was the notion that he has "offensive lines" and "defensive lines."

"I hate this offensive line stuff because I look at all our lines as lines that should be able to produce," he said.

He had his proof a few hours later.

The Sabres again took care of an uninterested visitor, trouncing the Florida Panthers for a 6-2 victory in HSBC Arena. The points came from all over, as Ruff would hope.

Leading goal-scorer and first-line mainstay Jason Pominville started the Sabres' production, scoring for the 24th time midway through the first period.

The Sabres' second line followed, with Tim Kennedy reaching double digits with his 10th goal. Next up was the third line, with Nathan Gerbe doing the honors for the second time in his career.

It doesn't take an intelligent pulmonary division nursing specialist to follow the linear progression and guess which forward unit scored next. Of course it was the fourth line, with Adam Mair's sixth goal giving the Sabres a commanding 4-1 lead.

Four lines plus six goals equals one smiling coach, armed with a packet of ammunition for anyone who questions his team's offensive ability.

"It's very important," Ruff said. "When you're going through stretches like this where you've got to play four [games] in six [nights] and back-to-back with how compressed the schedule is, the fact that we've been able to use four lines has really helped us."

The victory was the third straight for the red-hot Sabres, who moved a point past Pittsburgh and into second place in the Eastern Conference. They're also closer to the Northeast Division title. They increased their lead over idle Ottawa to seven points with one fewer game played.

Only six games remain for Buffalo, including one tonight against Toronto in Air Canada Centre.

"We're excited," forward Matt Ellis said. "We're in the final stretch run here, and it's about building up to the big tournament."

The Sabres improved to 7-1 in the past eight games, including back-to-back easy wins at the foot of Washington Street. The Sabres blasted lazy Tampa Bay, 7-1, Saturday and had their fans again doing the wave Wednesday after a dominating second period.

Buffalo took 20 of the 22 shots in the middle period, building their three-goal advantage. Ryan Miller stood untested in his crease for the opening 11:16. The Sabres finished with a 41-15 shot advantage.

"We talked about increasing our odds, and I think odds mean getting more pucks to the net and getting more people there," Mair said. "It feels good to be able to get contributions from everywhere. You never want, especially in goal scoring, to rely on one area."

The Panthers, who opened the scoring with just 1:51 off the clock, struck early in the third, too. Michael Frolik's goal with 1:26 gone cut the Sabres' lead to 4-2.

Buffalo wasted no time putting the game back out of reach.

Tyler Ennis (who, for the record, was on the top line) scored with 12:28 remaining. Just 33 seconds later, Henrik Tallinder got the defensemen into the scoring binge. The blue-liner's slap shot caromed off defenseman Bryan McCabe and past Tomas Vokoun. The patented goal countdown by the sellout crowd was in full swing.

"It was a good response," Ruff said. "We went right after them again and got a couple more. The period was just a pretty solid period after that."

It was solid from the first line to the fourth, of course, and included a three-assist night for Raffi Torres.

"It's nice that we're able to get rewarded for that, to be able to contribute," said Ellis, who skated in the middle of Mair and Torres. "I think that gives Lindy the flexibility of what players to use in certain situations. It's exciting for us, too."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

***

Sabres 6, Panthers 2

SLAP SHOTS: Sabres win third straight, increase division lead to seven points. . . . Balanced attack boosts Buffalo, with every line scoring. . . . Torres returns from injury absence with three assists.

FAST FACT: The Sabres, who improved to 24-10-6 at home, have 13 goals in the last two outings.

NEXT: Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 tonight in Air Canada Centre.

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