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Within Striking Distance of History

Thursday, 10.26.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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Within Striking Distance of History
The Buffalo Sabres are one game away from rewriting the National Hockey League's record for wins to start a season. Buffalo tied the previous mark - set by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1993-94 season - with a 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum, the team's 10th consecutive win.

Buffalo will attempt to break the league record this Saturday against the Atlanta Thrashers in HSBC Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.

"It's pretty cool to hear the name of your team mentioned [by the media] for the start this season," said co-captain Daniel Briere. "Obviously it wasn't our goal right from the start, but we're a game away from history and we might as well give it all we've got."

"It's a heck of an accomplishment," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "It started in training camp and led to where we are at now."

Added Chris Drury: "It would be nice [to set the record], but it's not going to be easy. Atlanta has a great team."

A good portion of the team's success this season can be credited to goaltending and one half of the team's dynamic-netminding duo put forth a monster effort on Long Island.

Goaltender Ryan Miller notched his first shutout and eighth victory of 2006-07 with a 29-save performance.

Twice this season, Miller has carried a shutout bid into the third period only to see his efforts foiled by an errant goal by the opposition. But against the Islanders, the Sabres top goalie set the tone early as he stuffed a pointblank slapshot by Shawn Bates in the opening minute of play and stood strong through three periods, stopping nine shots in the first, 11 in the second and nine in the third.

Maxim Afinogenov added to his team scoring lead with a goal and an assist against New York. In 10 games this season, Afinogenov has tallied six goals and 10 assists for 16 points. Ales Kotalik and Jason Pominville rounded out the scoring for the Sabres.

"We didn't have the explosiveness that we usually have, but once we got the lead, we played a safe game," said Briere. "It's going to happen. Some nights were not going to have that little extra pop and it's good that we still find ways to win."

With a two-man advantage, Kotalik gave Buffalo the 1-0 lead six minutes into the game with a booming one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle. One of Buffalo's deadliest snipers on the power play last year with 10 goals, the tally against New York goaltender Rick DiPietro was Kotalik's first on the man advantage this season.

"We had a lot of careless turnovers in the first period," said Briere. "We just weren't sharp to start the game. The second and third, our play was a little better."

Afinogenov expanded Buffalo's lead to a pair after out skating Brendan Witt to a loose puck and cruising into the offensive zone on a breakaway at the 4:12 mark of the second.

In the head-to-head showdown with DiPietro, Buffalo's Russian Rocket faked to the left post before beating the out-of-position netminder with a backhander for his sixth goal of the season.

"It seemed like [Afinogenov's fake] happened in two seconds," said Drury. "With Max, his speed kills."

Defenseman Toni Lydman cleared the puck from Buffalo's zone off the boards to create the scoring opportunity.

The Sabres took a three-goal lead on an odd-man rush less than four minutes into the third. Pominville's centering pass intended for Briere deflected off a defenseman stick shortside for his fourth goal in as many games at 3:27.

With the primary assist, Briere extended his point-scoring streak to a career-high nine games.
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Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.
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