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Buffalo stuck at No. 9 in East

3/8/2004

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- After digging themselves quite a hole, the
St. Louis Blues find themselves back in the thick of the playoff
race.

Petr Cajanek had a goal and two assists and Reinhard Divis made 18 saves, leading the Blues to a 5-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.

The Blues, who have won two straight after a seven-game
winless streak, moved into an eighth-place tie with Los Angeles in
the Western Conference. Both teams have 73 points, but the Blues
have more victories. The Kings, however, have a game in hand.

"There's nothing righted yet, but this is how we need to play," said Blues center Doug Weight, who had two assists. "We still have a lot of work to do, but if we play like this, we'll be successful."

Dallas Drake, Chris Pronger, Pavol Demitra and Mike Sillinger
also scored for the Blues, who have not lost to Buffalo since Oct.
1, 1997, a stretch of 10 games (8-0-2). St. Louis also has not lost
in Buffalo in the last seven trips (5-0-2).

Derek Roy scored his third goal in two games for Buffalo, which
failed to gain ground on the New York Islanders for the eighth and
final playoff spot in the East. The Islanders remain six points in
front of the Sabres, with both teams having 14 games remaining.

The Blues, who have just six wins in their last 23 games, are three points behind Nashville and Calgary for sixth place in the West.

"We still play a lot of teams that are in front of us, so we
still need to work harder and get as many points as we can,"
Pronger said. "All we can do is do the things necessary for us to
win games. We want to leave it up to us to make the playoffs."

The Sabres had seven power plays in the first two periods,
converting just one. Overall, they were 1-for-8, while St. Louis was
0-for-3.

"Penalty killing was a big part of the game, definitely,"
Blues coach Mike Kitchen said. "Some of the calls were
questionable, but we were able to kill them off."

After Drake and Roy traded goals in the first period, Pronger
gave the Blues a 2-1 lead in the second with a slap shot from the
top of the left circle. It was Pronger's 14th goal of the year,
tying a career high set in the 1999-2000 season.

The Sabres, who had won their last two games, were throttled in
the second period, managing just two shots on Divis.

"The difference in the game was the execution of the special
teams," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "On the power play, we had
some good zone time but we never attacked the net or got the pucks
to the net."

After the game, speculation continued to swirl around Sabres
forward Miroslav Satan, who said Saturday that he was expecting to be
dealt before Tuesday's trade deadline. Sabres general manager Darcy
Regier said Sunday that the team's leading goal scorer has not demanded
a trade.

"I don't think he's trying to force things," Regier said. "I
think Miro wants to be the best player he can be and help a hockey
club, and right now he's helping us."

After the game, Satan spoke with Ruff and Regier about his future
in a closed-door meeting.

"I'm still a Buffalo Sabre," Satan said. "It's still up in
the air. I don't know what they want to do. You'll have to wait, and
I'll have to wait."

Divis made his first start since Feb. 20 against Detroit after
starting goaltender Chris Osgood was scratched before the game because of illness. Divis had not won since Jan. 15 against Columbus.

"We're just trying to stay focused game to game," Divis said.
"We know what's on the line, and obviously that was a very big game
for us."

St. Louis broke the game open with three third-period goals.

Demitra scored his 20th early in the third, taking a pass from Cajanek on a two-on-none break and wristing a shot past Martin Biron, who finished with 20 saves.

Cajanek got his eighth goal with 8:02 remaining, and Sillinger
connected with just over a minute to go.

Buffalo played nearly the entire game without its top
defenseman, Alexei Zhitnik, who bruised his shoulder just two
minutes in after being checked from behind by Drake. The Blues
tried to take advantage of Buffalo's short-handed blue line.

"We tried to wear them down and play a lot in their end tonight
after Zhitnik went down," said Pronger, who also added an assist.

Game notes
This was the only meeting between the teams this season.
... The win gave St. Louis consecutive road victories for the first
time since Dec. 9-12. ... Demitra, who also recorded an assist, has
scored at least 20 goals for seven straight seasons.