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Sabres bring their 'A' game to Long Island

UNIONDALE, NY (LGS) — After taking on and defeating one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference on Friday night, the Buffalo Sabres feasted on what could be one of the worst. In a total dominating effort, the Sabres were on their "A" game Monday afternoon against the Islanders.

Thomas Vanek | Derek Roy | Drew Stafford
The only line for Buffalo that managed to play the entire game together. Vanek might be off to a career year, and it's not just the three goals he has so far – including two in this game. The Austrian looks faster and more involved in every aspect of the game. His improved effort has not gone unrewarded as the Sabres' top sniper is also getting time on the penalty kill. His reward for Ruff today: a shorthanded goal. Stafford continued to do the dirty work along the boards, and Roy controlled the puck very well all game long. Grade: B+

Daniel Paille | Jochen Hecht (Clarke MacArthur) | Jason Pominville
The line combined for three goals and four assists. I can't say enough about Paille; there will be a lot of #20 jerseys being purchased at The Sabres Store over the next few months. Hecht scored Buffalo's first goal of the game before getting injured early in the second period. Pommers contributed with a goal and two assists. MacArthur would take over for Hecht, and he is more than making up for a rather uninspiring preseason. Mac is quickly going to find himself a permanent spot on the roster if he continues to play the way he is. Grade: A-

Maxim Afinogenov | Adam Mair | Ales Kotalik
Mad Max is skating well and making far fewer mistakes compared to last season. While he still can't find that elusive finishing touch, his speed created a lot of chances for the Sabres today and was the product of the game-winning goal by Mair. Kotalik contributed on the power play with another booming one-timer, while Mair continues to impress playing on a line that doesn't necessarily suit his preferred style of play. Grade: A-

Andrew Peters | Clarke MacArthur | Patrick Kaleta
Just seeing that Peters played almost nine minutes this afternoon leads you to believe the Sabres' enforcer has dramatically improved his actual game. The big guy is making smart decisions on the ice, and he is getting rewarded with more ice time than ever. As mentioned above, MacArthur got bumped to the second line after Hecht went down. He ended up scoring a pretty give-and-go goal with Paille. Kaleta put a big hurting on Brandon Witt during the second period melee and, like Peters, continues to play a solid all-around game.  Grade: B+

Henrik Tallinder | Craig Rivet
The Sabres' captain couldn't stand for watching Mair get cross-checked in the face right after a faceoff following one of Buffalo's many second-period goals. Rivet went after Nate Thompson before pummeling Sean Bergenheim into the ice. Tallinder was much better, and he stepped it up to another level after Rivet was tossed from the game. Grade: A-

Jaroslav Spacek | Andrej Sekera
A much better defensive performance from this duo. Spacek and Sekera were more involved offensively, but they did a great job in closing the gaps on defense while adding a combined six blocked shots. Sekera does tend to skate the puck up the ice more than normal, a la Brian Campbell, but he does need to learn to use his outlet passes a bit quicker. Grade: A-

Toni Lydman | Teppo Numminen
For the second straight game, the Finns had a relatively quiet game on the blueline, but that should be taken as a compliment in this case. Grade: B+

Patrick Lalime
Lalime was so perfect tonight in relief of Ryan Miller that it took an absolutely perfect shot from Trent Hunter to spoil what was looking like a sure shutout. Lalime made a handful of huge saves before the Sabres eventually opened up the floodgates. Grade: A

Power Play
Sure they scored three power-play goals, but the Sabres still look like a mess with the man advantage. The Islanders used an aggressive penalty kill that the Sabres couldn't solve. It took two funny goals from behind the net and one more on a 5-on-3 for the Sabres to make the power play count. The PP unit also allowed more shots against Lalime than the PK unit did. Grade: C+

Penalty Killing
Any time you limit your opponents to one shot against on six power-play attempts spanning 8:45, you've done a job well done. And when you add a shorthanded goal to that, it's a perfect grade. Grade: A+

Coaching
Kudos to Lindy Ruff for recognizing that this would be a perfect game to start backup netminder Patrick Lalime. The move paid off, and it should keep Ryan Miller nice and fresh for Wednesday's showdown against the New York Rangers. Ruff also anticipated the Islanders' shenanigans after Buffalo's fourth goal and made sure he had the right personnel to handle that situation. And handled it they did. Grade: A+

OVERALL GRADE — A


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By Paul Szeglowski, LGS Site Manager
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