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Sabres get glimpse of Oilers phenoms

Fans in Buffalo have been getting downright sick of the Sabres as they were careen toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference prior to Tuesday night's win. Out here in Oil Country, there's a group of young guns who have had people turning a blind eye to the standings that show their team last in the Western Conference.

There are five Stanley Cup banners hanging from the roof of Rexall Place and it's easy for fans of the Edmonton Oilers to dream of some more when they see Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle on the ice every night.

Eberle and Hall have been atop the rookie leaders in virtually every offensive category, though neither made the score sheet in Buffalo's 4-2 victory.

"We love the fact that people are happy to have us here and see us play," said Hall, the 19-year-old who was the No. 1 overall pick in last June's draft. "But as much as we are an up-and-coming team, we don't want to use that label as an excuse."

Hall is tied for second in goals by a rookie with 11 and is fifth with 21 points. Eberle, the 20-year-old who was Edmonton's top pick in 2008, is tied for sixth in goals with nine (with Buffalo's Tyler Ennis) and is tied for third in points with 22.

Tuesday night left the Oilers in a 1-5-1 rut. Edmonton coach Tom Renney has been tough at times on his young team. He pillaged their lack of effort following a loss last month at Phoenix but the Oilers took off after that on a 5-0-1 run.

"We didn't necessarily need to hear that because we knew ourselves what we needed to do," Hall said. "It was a just a case of him letting us know it again and it kind of resulted in a good streak."

"They have a lot of young guys with a lot of speed," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "There's real creative forwards. I see mistakes but I see high energy and guys who are really playing hard."

Eberle and Hall both have fond memories of their time in the IIHF World Junior Championship and are following the current edition of Team Canada's quest at HSBC Arena to reclaim the gold medal it lost at last year's event in Saskatoon.

"I've been getting razzed pretty good over the last few days, with people here saying, 'Hey, World Junior guy,' " said Eberle, who played the last two years for Canada. "It's always a tournament you watch as a young kid and it's nice to get back to that.

"We go to that tournament as Canadians and we expect to win."

Eberle was named MVP of last year's tournament even though Canada lost the gold medal game in overtime to the United States.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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