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Thursday Night Fireworks Display

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Old-school hockey returned to HSBC Arena on Thursday night.

For a team that most hockey experts claimed was heavy on the flash and light on the grit, the Buffalo Sabres showed their toughness and loyalty to each other in the team's 6-5 shootout victory over the Ottawa Senators in front of a raucous, sellout crowd.

Suffering six injuries in that last five games, the Sabres frustrations boiled over when Chris Neil blindsided co-captain Chris Drury. The check, which left Drury flattened and bleeding, came well after the center had released the puck.

"My take on it was that it was a late hit and a dirty hit," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "I don't agree with the hit. He was vulnerable at the time."

"You put two plus two together," said goaltender Martin Biron. "Neil and a late hit, you know that it has to be dirty."

It is undetermined whether or not Drury will be sidelined for any period of time from the hit.

"I don't care if it was when [Drury] hit the ice, or when the shoulder, elbow or forearm hit him, it's a dirty shot," said Ruff. "They knocked one of our best players, our captain, out of the lineup with what I believe was a dirty shot."

The very next shift, Andrew Peters, Adam Mair and Patrick Kaleta were matched up against Ottawa's top line. Chaos ensued as soon as the puck dropped when Buffalo responded to their captain's attack.

Peters mugged Dany Heatley. Mair decked Jason Spezza.

"Nothing was said," said Peters. "We decided to take matters into our own hands and that was it. You take a run at anybody on our team like that and you're going to be faced with some problems."

Biron even found a partner in Ottawa's Ray Emery, marking the first time in nine years there was a netminder scuffle involving a Sabre. Steve Shields squared off with Vancouver's Sean Burke on Jan. 15, 1998.

Outmatched in both size and skill, Biron hung tough before being wrestled to the ground.

"I knew (Emery) had me by 45-pounds and used to fight Sean McMorrow in Rochester," said Biron. "You put him in the player's gear and he'll be considered a heavy weight in the league. I hung on for dear life and didn't get hit in the face, which was good."

Unable to find a willing partner, Peters topped off his night and earned the game misconduct finishing what Biron started, feeding multiple rights to Emery's jaw as he jumped the goalie along the boards.

"I don't condone the tail end of that, with Andrew," said Ruff of Peter's fight with Emery. "You get caught up in the emotion, but the players did the right thing.

"Andrew's emotion ran a little too high. Maybe that was just a little too far."

When the dust settled, Buffalo was left to finish the second with 14 skaters and one goaltender. Defenseman Nathan Paetsch moved to the wing just to create three full lines.

Peters, two days removed from his first goal of the season, led Buffalo with 19 minutes in penalties. Mair and Biron followed with 17 apiece. Emery was served with a pair of fighting majors, a leaving the crease minor and a game misconduct for a grand total of 22.

"This home-and-home series against these guys feels like the playoffs," said Biron. "It's a team that we've been going up and down against all year, and to have that response in not only the fights but the way we played, we really responded the way we had to."

Thomas Vanek led Buffalo with a pair of goals in the second period. Drury and Dmitri Kalinin each scored, while Clarke MacArthur recorded his first career goal with less than two minutes remaining in the second.

Drew Stafford scored with a backhander on Buffalo's fourth shootout attempt, while Miller stopped all four opposing shooters.

The Sabres will travel to the Scotiabank Place this Saturday for the regular season, series finale between the Northeast Division rivals.

"We'll come back to practice tomorrow and let the emotion settle down," said Biron. "It's still going to be pretty high, but we'll try to put that aside. Saturday is going to be big, going back into their building."
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