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Sabres visit Stars in first game since trade

by Sean McCullen

SABRES (18-34-8) at STARS (28-22-10)


Last 10: Buffalo 4-5-1; Dallas 6-2-2

Season series: This is the final game this season between the teams. The Dallas Stars beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Oct. 28 at First Niagara Center.

Big story: This is the Sabres' first game since longtime goalie Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott were dealt to the St. Louis Blues. The trade, which brought goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional draft pick to Buffalo, was announced during the Sabres' 4-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Friday night. It remains to be seen whether Halak and Stewart will stay with the Sabres past the NHL Trade Deadline, which is Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET.

Halak, 28, who was 24-9-4 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .919 save percentage with the Blues this season, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Stewart, 26, who has 15 goals and 11 assists, is signed through 2014-15.

"As long as I’m here, I’m going to focus 100 percent of my energy on winning hockey games for the Buffalo Sabres," Stewart said of the trade rumors, according to The Buffalo News.

Miller, 33, made 23 saves in his debut with the Blues on Sunday, a 4-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes. He had played all 540 games in his NHL career with the Sabres.

Team Scope:

Sabres: Halak told reporters after practice Sunday that he will not be in goal against the Stars, adding fuel to speculation he will be traded for a second time in less than a week.

"I'm happy to be here right now, and we'll see what’s going to happen a few days from now if I'm still here," Halak told The Buffalo News. "Anything can happen from now on. We've got three more days before the trade deadline, and we'll see."

The Sabres have won all three games since the NHL break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics ended. In addition to the win against the Sharks on Friday, they beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 last Tuesday behind Miller's 36-save performance before topping the Boston Bruins 5-4 in overtime last Wednesday.

The game in Dallas opens a three-game road trip for Buffalo, which has the worst record in the NHL.

Stars: Dallas is 1-1-0 in two games, each at home, since the Olympic break ended and will play four of its next five games at American Airlines Center. Ben Bishop made 39 saves Saturday to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-2 win against the Stars.

The game Monday is coach Lindy Ruff's second against his old team. The Sabres fired Ruff last February.

"There were great memories there, but it's like I've been here forever," Ruff, who had coached the Sabres since 1997, said, according to The Dallas Morning News.

In his first season in Dallas, Ruff has the Stars in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They have a big game Thursday, when they host the Vancouver Canucks. Dallas, Vancouver and the Winnipeg Jets are tied with 66 points entering Monday; the Stars hold the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference by virtue of having played fewer games than the other two.

"I'm way ahead of where I was when I got here. … You see how people operate in tough situations, and I think we're way ahead of the curve in that category now," Ruff said.

Who's hot: Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers has two goals and two assists the past two games. Goalie Jhonas Enroth stopped 65 of 71 shots he faced in the wins against Boston and San Jose. … Stars center Jamie Benn has a goal and three assists in the past three games. Forwards Antoine Roussel and Vernon Fiddler each had a goal and an assist against Tampa Bay.

Injury report: Buffalo center Tyler Ennis (undisclosed) participated in an optional skate Friday morning, but then sat out the game against San Jose. He is day-to-day. … Dallas defenseman Brenden Dillon (lower body) practiced Sunday after missing the game against Tampa Bay. He is questionable. Defenseman Stephane Robidas (broken leg) is several weeks from returning.

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