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13 April 2007

Sabres - Isles Game 1 Recap

Workmanlike, methodical and somewhat boring. These are the words I would use to describe the Buffalo Sabres' game 1 win last night in the HSBC Arena. The Sabres clamped down hard on the Islanders last night and ground out a 4-1 win. Brian Campbell and Chris Drury did all of the damage as the Sabres jumped to an early 1-0 lead and then pulled away after the Islanders tied it 1-1 in the second.

The Islanders played fairly well in the game but just couldn't seem to match the Sabres depth, especially the 3rd and 4th lines. Wade Dubielewicz played a solid game and made all the saves he needed to but the Islanders could not muster enough offense to mount a serious threat in the crunch time. The best line for the Islanders throughout the night was the Ryan Smyth, Trent Hunter and Mike Sillinger line which seemed to give the Sabres some problems, especially down low. It appeared Ted Nolan tried to match the Smyth line with the Briere line as much as possible. It appeared to cause the Briere line alot of problems due to the physical presence Smyth's line brings. The Yashin and Satan line showed alot of effort for the Isles but couldn't crack the scoreboard.

The Sabres' lines of Afinigenov, Roy and Vanek had numerous shifts where they controlled play for long periods of time in the Isles zone. They were not rewarded on the scoreboard but looked extremely dangerous all night. The Islanders defense struggled significantly with the Sabres speed throughout the game. The addition of Tim Connolly seems to have significantly stabilized the Sabres' Power Play which accounted for two goals (they scored another 1 second after another power play expired) and the Sabres' penalty killers lead by Drury, who chipped in two goals as well, seemed to have their way. Danius Zubrus, Jochen Hecht, Drew Stafford and Adam Mair were extremely physical all night. With his two goals Defenseman Brian Campbell picked up where he left off in last year's playoffs. He looked like an all star defensman for the first time in some time and was a force on every shift he played.

All in all it was exactly the type of effort the Sabres needed and they did not disappoint. They controlled play and once they built their lead in the third period they checked the Islanders into submission. Game Two is Saturday night in the HSBC Arena. It appears to be a good possibility that Rick Dipietro will start in goal for the Islanders as he has been cleared by team doctors. Dipietro has missed the last few weeks with a concussion suffered in a late March game.

News and Notes:

Daniel Briere did not practice Friday as a precautionary matter. He was reported to have been dinged up from blocking a shot but was expected to play Saturday night at full strength. There had been speculation that a hard Aaron Asham hit extremely late in the game had possibly injured Briere but the Sabres deny this.

Paul Gaustad (ankle) has resumed light skating and there are indications he could play in Round Two if the Sabres make it that far. He suffered a sliced tendon in his ankle in a freak skate accident.

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