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07 March 2007

Drury Gets New Linemates

When Chris Drury returns tonight after his concussion induced hiatus he will find some new friends on the ice with him. Dabius Zubrus and Mike Ryan are expected to flank Drury as Lindy Ruff attempts to work Zubrus into the lineup. Drury has expressed some frustration about the revolving door at left wing on his line as the Sabres have tried Jiri Novotny, Adam Mair, Paul Gaustad, Derek Roy and Dan Paille with Drury and Kotalik with mixed results.

Interestingly, Derek Roy seemed the prime candidate to join that line, with Zubrus moving back to center, when Kotalik returns from his knee injury, but the Drew Stafford, Roy and Thomas Vanek line has been dominate since being placed together. This could get further complicated by the return of Maxim Afinigenov whose spot with Roy and Vanek is now filled by Drew Stafford. Afinigenov has expressed excitement about playing with Zubrus so that could make this transition easier. It is conceivable the Sabres could have 4 legitimate scoring lines come playoff time.

If all come back healthy the playoff forward lines could look like this:

Pominville - Briere - Hecht
Stafford - Roy - Vanek
Kotalik - Drury - Paille/Paetsch/Mair
Afinigenov - Zubrus - Mair/Paetsch/Paille

The emergence of Paetsch as a important cog on the PP has also caused a dilemma for Ruff. The current pairings when Spacek returns are expected to look like this:

Tallinder -Lydman
Spacek - Campbell
Numminen - Kalinen

The easy solution would appear to be to sit Paille and move Paetsch to wing, but Paille, prior to his injury, showed a real chemistry with Kotalik and Drury and brings a lot to the table along the walls and on the forecheck. There has been talk amongst fans that Numminen should sit due to declining play, but I find it hard to believe that Ruff would sit his veteran leader.

News and Notes:
Apparently new goalie Ty Conklin put on a profanity laced show in practice yesterday due to his own poor performance. Conklin later said to the media it was mostly for show, but it will be interesting to see how it plays in the room. Former backup Martin Biron was known as a loose and relaxed presence in the room and was very popular.

Conklin is expected to start Friday against the Minnesota Wild.

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