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NOTEBOOK: Hurricane Watch

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres are determined to remain grounded despite the team's rapid ascension through the Eastern Conference standings.

Off to its best start since the 1975-76 season, Buffalo is bent on remaining shortsighted and focusing solely on the team's next game. That's a good thing for the Sabres, as their next opponent is a familiar foe who is on a pretty good roll of their own.

After starting the season 0-3-1, the Carolina Hurricanes will try to play spoilers to Buffalo's opening season success when they blow into HSBC Arena this Friday (8 p.m., MSG, WGR 550-AM, BUY TICKETS).

The Hurricanes are currently carrying a three-game winning streak in which they have outscored their opposition 14-6.

"They're goaltending has been strong the last couple of games and their special teams has stepped up," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "We going to have to be ready because they are a very good skating club that is going to be one of the top teams in the league."

Carolina scored three power-play goals - two by Justin Williams and one by Eric Belanger - to dispatch the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 at the St. Pete Times Forum in their most recent victory on Monday night. Williams currently leads the team with eight points (3+5), while Rod Brind'Amour has seven points (1+6) in seven games. Budding super-star Eric Staal has recorded three goals and three assists this season.

"I don't think there is really any limitations," said Ruff when asked how good of a player Staal could become. "He's a big man that can skate and he has a tremendous shot. He has everything."

The two teams have met once before this season. The Sabres rained on Carolina's banner raising parade on opening night with a 3-2 shootout victory. Staal and Eric Cole scored for defending Stanley Cup Champions that night.

Ruff is sure that Carolina would love to return the favor this Friday.

"I'm sure they will be looking to knock us off after we went in their building and spoiled their night," said Ruff. "We had an extremely tough battle in their building and I'm anticipating the same type of battle here.

"When you get to the point where you are undefeated, there is always that team that wants to be the first to get it done."

Buffalo's schedule thus far has been the definition of grueling with the team's opening six opponents this season averaging 106 points in the standings last season. Montreal was the lone team among the six to record fewer than 100 points (93), while Detroit led the league with 124.

"There are no easy games and you can't relax for a second," said Ruff. "We know that every team we have played, almost to a point, has been one of the top team's in the league. I think that’s helped keep the challenge alive."


A nagging groin injury, suffered in the third period of Buffalo's 9-1 thumping of the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, kept defenseman Teppo Numminen out of practice on Thursday. Ruff indicated that the injury is not serious and that the 38-year-old blueliner wouldn't miss any games.

"He won't miss tomorrow," said Ruff of Numminen. "He actually wanted to skate and we decided to keep him off."

Wounded center Tim Connolly has still not been cleared to exercise by the team. Connolly sustained a concussion in Game 2 of Buffalo's second-round match-up against the Ottawa Senators and has not skated since. No timetable for his return has been announced.
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