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Gaustad line sparks win over Hurricanes

The Buffalo Sabres expect to be winners this season. It's clear in the way they talk and the way they carry themselves.

In the opening exhibition game, their expectations were met.

The Sabres scored twice early in the third period and added an empty-net goal, rallying for a 3-1 victory over Carolina on Monday in sold-out First Niagara Center. The line of center Paul Gaustad, left wing Nathan Gerbe and right wing Patrick Kaleta combined for all three goals.

"It doesn't matter what game it is -- preseason, scrimmage -- you always want to win," Kaleta said. "That's the competitive part of us being hockey players. It's really important to start off as sharp and precise as you can be out there.

"It's important that you carry on the attitude that you want to win."

The Sabres and Hurricanes used a mix of veterans and prospects, and as expected on the third day of training camp, it took the teams some time to get into game form. The Hurricanes snapped the scoreless tie in the opening minute of the second period.

Zac Dalpe beat Marc-Andre Gragnani to a Buffalo turnover just inside the blue line to create a two-on-zero with Brandon Sutter. Sutter kept the puck and deposited a backhand past Sabres goaltender Drew MacIntrye with 23 seconds gone.

MacIntyre, signed as a free agent, finished with nine saves on 10 shots in 29:03 of work. He gave way to Jhonas Enroth midway through the second period. The Sabres' prime backup stopped 11 of 11 shots, including a dynamic, slide-across-the-crease save on Jamie McBain late in the second.

Brian Boucher played the first two periods in Carolina's crease, turning aside all 14 shots. Replacement Justin Peters allowed goals the first two times he saw the puck.

"Even myself as a veteran coming in, I was still a little bit nervous in my first game," Kaleta said. "As the game went on, we started playing our game more. In the third period, we got some bounces."

On the first, Kaleta streaked down the left side, and just before hitting the goal line threw a backhand pass to the front. Gaustad wasted little time sending it to the back of the net, tying the game at 1-all with 47 seconds gone.

The Sabres enjoyed the same result on their second shot against Peters. Kaleta dropped a pass to Gaustad near the Carolina blue line, and the center spotted Gerbe streaking down the left side. The pass went just past a Carolina defender to the top of the crease, where Gerbe easily deflected it home with 4:09 off the clock.

Kaleta scored into the empty net as time expired.

The Sabres' next preseason home game is Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The game is sold out, but all fans are invited to see the Sabres enter the Center early. The team will walk a blue and gold carpet through the plaza beginning at 5 p.m.

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The Sabres' television crew will soon be getting a new face. Brian Duff, who headlines "On the Fly" on the NHL Network, will join the telecasts as the game-night host for the broadcasts without Rick Jeanneret.

Kevin Sylvester normally handles the pregame, postgame and intermission duties, but he is sliding into the play-by-play role for 25 games as Jeanneret eases his travel schedule. When Sylvester is in the booth, Duff will take his spot downstairs.

Duff, a resident of the Toronto area, did broadcasting work for the Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers prior to joining NHL Network.

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The Sabres' radio home, WGR-AM 550, will remain their radio home for an additional four years after the sides agreed to a contract extension Monday. The Sabres and Entercom, WGR's parent company, were entering the final season of a partnership that began in 2005. The new deal will begin next year and run through 2015-16.

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The Sabres will begin selling family four packs Saturday for six Silver-priced games. The deal includes four 300 Level II tickets, four hot dogs, four pops and four bags of popcorn for $222, a savings of $74.

The games available will be: versus Florida on Oct. 29; Philadelphia, Nov. 2; Calgary, Nov. 4; Florida, Dec. 9; the New York Rangers, Feb. 1; and Carolina, March 7.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com