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Sabres, Senators rivalry heats up with brawl

NHL.com @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -The Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators rivalry was nastier than usual Thursday night.

A wild second-period melee broke out between the Northeast Division rivals, involving 12 players. The goalies squared off at center ice, and even the coaches were yelling at each other.

The Sabres won the 20th meeting with the Senators in the last 18 months 6-5 when Drew Stafford scored the only goal in a shootout.

But the outcome was almost an afterthought for the Sabres, intent on getting back at the Senators after Ottawa's Chris Neil blindsided Chris Drury, knocking Buffalo's co-captain woozy and causing a deep gash across his head five minutes into the second period.

"The players did the right thing," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, referring to the fight. "You can't respond any other way."

The fight resulted in 100 penalty minutes.

And guess what? They get to meet again Saturday at Ottawa to complete the eight-game season series.

"If they want to start something, we've got guys that can handle that and it should be a good one Saturday," Senators forward Dany Heatley said. "It's fun to play them. They're exciting, emotional games. We've got some guys that we don't like over there. And I'm sure they don't like a lot of our guys over here."

Neil now tops the Sabres' list. Without slowing, the hard-hitting winger checked Drury, who was defenseless after taking a shot from the right circle. Drury, who's helmet was knocked off, did not return and his status is uncertain, leaving the already banged-up Sabres potentially minus their eighth regular.

While Ruff called Neil's hit dirty, the Senators had a very different take.

"It was a clean hit, everyone saw it," said Neil, who faulted Drury for having his head down. "The way they responded, that wasn't too smart. But hopefully the league reviews it and does something about it. But if they don't, we saw what happened out there and so did everyone else."

Senators coach Bryan Murray was angry with how the brawl began. Buffalo's fourth-liner Adam Mair punched Senators star Jason Spezza in the head on the face-off after Drury was hurt.

"I put out skill players and he sends out the five guys on his team that are going to start a fight," Murray said, referring to Ruff. He then accused the Sabres coach of ordering his players to start the fight.

Ruff's answer to that was: "I'm not going to comment what I had on my mind."

After pausing, Ruff added: "Go out and run 'em."

The league is expected to review what took place and could issue fines, suspensions and, at the very least, a warning prior to Saturday's game.

Ottawa's Ray Emery and Buffalo's Martin Biron were ejected after the goalies dropped their gloves and masks to exchange blows at center ice. Sabres' tough-guy Andrew Peters was also ejected after he and Emery traded punches.

Emery, in his first game back after serving a three-game suspension for slashing Montreal's Maxim Lapierre, enjoyed the rough stuff.

"I think it's healthy for the game as long as no one gets hurt," Emery said. "You have to stick up for yourself and I think both teams did that."

Biron was proud with how the Sabres stuck up for Drury.

"It didn't matter who was on the ice, anybody would've responded," said Biron. "That was really satisfying. And it's satisfying to see the way we played after that."

The bad blood almost carried over after the game.

Mair went to the Senators locker room, where he apologized to Heatley in the doorway. Heatley accepted the apology, but Senators assistant coach John Paddock shot Mair an angry glare.

"Don't look at me like that when I'm apologizing," Mair said to Paddock, who then apologized to Mair.

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