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Sabres edge Sens at Kraft Hockeyville

by Magalie Lafreni?re /
DUNDAS, Ontario -- It took a while for the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators to get used to the smaller ice at the J.L. Grightmire Arena. But by the third period, there was enough room for Buffalo's Jason Pominville to get the winning goal in the 2010 Kraft Hockeyville game.

Pominville scored with 8:46 left in regulation to lift the Sabres to a 2-1 win against the Senators in a game that drew a capacity crowd of 980 to the rink in the town of 24,700. Dundas won the fifth annual Kraft Hockeyville contest and earned the chance to host the game, which was played last year in Terrace, B.C.

The arena's surface was 10 feet shorter and five feet narrower than a regulation NHL sheet of ice, and both teams struggled to get acclimated -- the area from the blue lines to the end boards was the same, but the neutral zones were shorter.

"We can't do anything about the size," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "It was tight, couldn't make a lot of plays. There was a lot of getting pucks in deep and trying to battle."

By the third period, the game opened up somewhat and allowed for scoring chances on both sides.

"Slowly yeah, we adjusted," Pominville said. "It's tough to adjust, to be honest with you. Things happen quickly usually and you take that extra 15 feet away, it makes the ice surface even smaller, so things happen even faster than what they usually do. You didn't have much time out there and again it's fun and something different."

Pominville's goal came on a nice play by roster hopeful Luke Adam.

"The puck was in the air and I just took off and I was able to get a shot off and it ended up finding a corner," Pominville said. "I was pretty happy to be able to get one."

The Senators had some good scoring opportunities during the second as Buffalo got into some penalty trouble. They finally capitalized with 12.7 seconds left when rookie defenseman Patrick Wiercioch fired a wrister from the blue line past Ryan Miller to tie the game at 1-1.

Wiercioch, drafted in the second round in 2008, signed with the Senators after playing two years at the University of Denver, where he was tops among defensemen in scoring. He is hoping to crack the Sens' lineup.

"From the first game, I'm obviously making huge strides," he said. "Got the first one tonight and hopefully I keep progressing through the preseason and showing them what I can do."

Center Rob Niedermayer, who signed with the Sabres as an unrestricted free agent this summer, scored an unassisted shorthanded goal at 11:29 of the first period after rookie goaltender Robin Lehner misplayed the puck. He lost control behind the net, where Niedermayer grabbed the puck and tucked it into the empty net.

"I had a brutal goal," admitted Lehner, a second-round pick in 2009. "I didn't think he would come that fast. I got a little panicked and made a mistake. ... I don't think I let it bother me too much and I fought my way back into the game and I had a couple of good saves."

As a young goalie just breaking into the NHL, Lehner really had fun playing against Miller.

"He's big role model there. One of my dreams is being the ice, playing against the best goaltenders," Lehner said. "I did it Toronto, I did it especially today and I'm just going to have to learn from these guys, including Leclaire and Elliott every day in practice and see where it takes me."
"it was a great experience.  The game is little different than what you're used to, but it's all for the kids and the city and I think it's a great opportunity for the city to have this event." -- Jason Pominville
This was the fifth edition of Kraft Hockeyville in which Canadian communities campaigned for the chance to win the chance to host a preseason game and $100,000 in arena improvements.

"It's good timing too," Miller said about Kraft Hockeyville. "It sends you back just a little bit, when you're excited to see hockey games and be at the rink and it definitely is at this time of year when you're excited to play and getting back into the rhythm of the season. It's good to see where you kind of come from. "

Both the Sabres and the Senators have participated in past Kraft Hockeyville games -- each was beaten by the Montreal Canadiens.

"It was good it was a great experience," said Pominville who played in the 2008 game in Roberval, Que. "The game is little different than what you're used to, but it's all for the kids and the city and I think it's a great opportunity for the city to have this event and once again it was fun to be part of it."

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