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Sabres playoff hopes dim

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The playoff hopes grow dimmer by the day as the Buffalo Sabres fell 7-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Steeltown.  The Sabres fell behind early when Nolan Pratt made a colossal mistake and allowed Tyler Kennedy in on a breakaway, Ryan Miller took a familiar position laying on the ice and Kennedy easily slid the puck by him and into the net.  Buffalo seemed to still be in the game and actually out shot the Pens 9-7 after one period.

In the second period Buffalo was awarded a five minute power play after Georges Laraque laid a cheap shot on Nathan Paetsch.  Laraque hit Paetsch with an elbow to the head well after he had passed the puck away and will probably be suspended after Colin Campbell gets a look at it.  At a time when Buffalo should have been able to gain momentum they allowed the opposite to happen.  The Penguins had four or five great chances while short handed and eventually forced Buffalo to take a penalty.  The Penguins scored just seconds later and that spelled the beginning of the end for Buffalo.

The Penguins went ahead 3-0 before the second period ended and actually led 4-0 before Buffalo was finally able to get on the board.  Jochen Hecht and Daniel Paille scored goals to get Buffalo back in the game 4-2 but Pittsburgh answered back quickly and never looked back.  Buffalo seemed to have bad luck on two potential goals, one that appeared to go in but was inconclusive and another with a quick whistle.  The goals were irrelevant in the end because Buffalo could not keep the high powered Pens off the board.

The Penguins played without Sidney Crosby who is nursing a sore ankle but they still managed to score seven goals for the first time this season.  Pittsburgh had scored six on two different occasions, the last coming on January 3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they had not scored seven in a game until tonight.  The Penguins four third period goals tied the most they had scored in a period this season.

The difference in this game was special teams with Buffalo failing to convert on the power play while Pittsburgh converted three power play goals.  The Penguins had not scored in 16 attempts in their last four games and were 1-for-21 in their last five but had no problem  solving the Sabres penalty kill tonight.  It's not a surprise that the Sabres power play struggled tonight with Jaro Spacek and Tim Connolly out of the lineup.  Spacek is third on the Sabres in power play goals with seven and Tim Connolly is third in assists with 12.  The absence of those two players was clearly evident tonight.  In addition to losing those two players Nathan Paetsch had been playing the role vacated by Brian Campbell and he was injured on the cheap shot by Laraque.

The Buffalo Sabres remain four points out of a playoff spot because Philadelphia lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Buffalo will be back in action on Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes and are desperate for two points.  They will have to play without Nathan Paetsch who is already declared out for at least the weekend.  With Kalinin and Spacek already out it si unclear what the Sabres will do to fill that spot.