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Enroth keeps Sabres' playoff hopes alive with shutout

by Chris Ryndak /

BUFFALOJhonas Enroth recorded the third shutout of his career just like his other two – with a 1-0 win.

The Buffalo Sabres goaltender made 29 saves Saturday to record the team's first shutout of the season as Buffalo defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 at First Niagara Center.

All three of Enroth's shutouts, including games on Nov. 18, 2011 against the Carolina Hurricanes and March 30, 2011 against the New York Rangers, have been decided by one goal.

Philadelphia forward Daniel Briere had one last chance to tie the game, but his shot deflected up and off the crossbar as time expired.

"It's just the way things are going these days around here. It's unfortunate, but we had our chances, a lot more chances earlier in the game that we didn't capitalize on," Briere said. "I don't think we did enough in the offensive zone anyway to deserve the win. [You've] got to give the Sabres credit. They came, they played hard in their building."

While Briere considered that deflection unfortunate, Enroth wouldn't quite call it fortunate.

"I'm going to stick with 'good,'" Enroth said. "I think we worked very hard, everyone's been out there, so I think we deserved the luck."

The last time the Sabres shut out the Flyers in a regular season game was December 4, 1998, when Buffalo won 3-0.

Christian Ehrhoff scored 17 seconds into the third period on a shot he fired wide of the net to break a scoreless tie.

Sabres forward Steve Ott won a faceoff to the right of Flyers goaltender Steve Mason and on the left wing, Kevin Porter knocked it back to Ehrhoff at the point. Ehrhoff's shot went wide, but caromed straight back off the end boards and in off Mason's right pad.

Both teams have had trouble finding the back of net of late. In their past three games, the Flyers scored one goal in each. In similar fashion, the Sabres have been held to one goal in each of their past two games. Unsurprisingly, neither team had won a game in that stretch.

The scoring drought raged on through two periods Saturday.

Neither Enroth nor Mason had to be especially spectacular between the pipes in the first two periods. On one noteworthy chance for the Flyers a little more than 30 seconds into the second period, Enroth made a glove save on Claude Giroux's one-timer as the Flyers' captain skated in on a 2-on-1 with Simon Gagne.

Mason stopped 20 of 21 shots in his third appearance for the Flyers since being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline.

Both teams are also on the outside of the postseason picture and are hoping to make a push into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with only a handful of games remaining for each. Buffalo has six games left; Philadelphia has seven games remaining.

The Rangers held the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference heading into the slate of games on Saturday with 44 points. They visit the New York Islanders in a Saturday night matchup.

With the win, Buffalo improves to 40 points while the Flyers remain at 37. Philadelphia is not yet eliminated, but both the players and the front office know that time is running out on this season.

"It's tough. I've said this a few times here in the last few weeks. Nobody likes the position we're in," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "It's tough to take and scoring three goals in the last four games is, I'm sure, real tough to take for the players, too. We just have to dig in now and play hard. That's all you can do."

Briere, in his first game back after missing the past 10 with a concussion, doesn't have an answer as to why the offense has gone cold. Philadelphia has scored five goals in each of the three games prior.

"I wish I had more of an explanation right now. Obviously, it's not good enough. We have to find ways to create more offensively," Briere said. "It's not just that we're not scoring goals. Our chances are way down. I think we're not moving the puck very well in the offensive zone. I don't know if we're trying to hold onto it because we don't trust each other or what's going on."

Before Ehrhoff's goal, the loudest cheers of the game were heard after a spirited fight between Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta and Flyers defenseman Oliver Lauridsen 1:31 into the game. Kaleta got the better of the fight, landing several left-hand punches.

"Especially now with the limited amount of games in the regular season, we're making a push here," Kaleta said of Buffalo's playoff chances. "Everyone still believes and that's the way you've got to play. There's no give up and there's not a chance in hell that we're going to quit."

Chad Ruhwedel stepped right into the Sabres lineup on Saturday to make his professional debut after signing a two-year, entry-level contract hours before the game. The Sabres were down to five healthy defensemen after Tyler Myers broke a bone in his leg during the team's game against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

Myers blocked two shots by P.K. Subban during a Montreal 5-on-3 power play in the second period but played a regular shift for the duration of the game. The Sabres announced Myers' injury on Wednesday and opted not to recall anyone from their American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester.

Ruhwedel, 22, played three seasons at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and collected 15 goals and 63 points in 110 games. He earned First-Team All-America honors this year as well as 2013 Hockey East All-Conference First Team honors. The New England Hockey Writers Association named him the 2013 Bob Monahan Defenseman of the Year.

He played 13 minutes on Saturday while paired with Mike Weber. He landed in Buffalo on a flight from Boston at 9 a.m. and didn't make it to the arena until 10:30 a.m. for a 3 p.m. faceoff. Ruhwedel said he played on adrenaline.

"It was surreal. These guys made my job a lot easier. Playing with Weber, he made my life just so easy. I couldn't be thankful enough," Ruhwedel said.

Also before the game, the Sabres organization and Western New York elected officials broke ground on HARBORcenter, a $172 million project that will feature two full-size ice rinks, a full-service hotel, a two-story restaurant, street-level retail space and a five-level, 850-space parking structure. Expected to open in September 2014, the structure will be located across the street from First Niagara Center and will be connected to the arena.

Holmgren announced after the game that forward Eric Wellwood, who underwent surgery Thursday after slicing his Achilles' tendon in a game with Adirondack of the AHL on April 8, is expected to miss the next 9-12 months. The team will have a better diagnosis in about eight weeks.

"It's a significant injury. His Achilles' tendon was about 70 percent torn and then there's three other tendons that control the movement of his foot that were completely severed," Holmgren said.

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