Jackets Host Sabres to Kick Off Second Half
After earning MVP honors at the All-Star game, Buffalo's Daniel Briere is ready to help his team build on a remarkable first half.
The Sabres look to get the second half of the season started on the right foot Friday when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first game for each team after the All-Star break.
Briere had a goal and four assists in Wednesday's All-Star game, and was named the MVP despite the East's 12-9 loss to the West. Briere joined seven other players who have finished an All-Star game with five points, one shy of Mario Lemieux's 1988 record.
"I had no clue that six points was the record," Briere said. "You know when you're playing the game, you're getting assists when guys are finishing. I knew I was up to the five. But it wasn't something I thought about."
Briere leads the Sabres (33-12-4) with 57 points and has already set a career high with 39 assists. He was joined on the Eastern Conference team by two Buffalo teammates, goalie Ryan Miller and defenseman Brian Campbell, along with coach Lindy Ruff. Campbell did not record a point.
"Daniel was the star and he deserved it," said Miller, who stopped nine of the 12 shots he faced in 20 minutes. "He had a great night of productivity and was key on some great plays."
Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets' lone All-Star, had two goals and two assists and was named the second star of the game.
Buffalo owns the second-best record in the NHL behind Nashville, which has 71 points. The Sabres won their first 10 games and finished the first half seven points ahead of New Jersey, which ranks second in the East.
"It's been a very good start, and we're happy in the position where we are," Briere told the team's official Web site. "But there are a lot of little things we need to improve on to finish the season."
The Sabres dropped four of six heading into the break, including Saturday's 4-3 defeat at Montreal. Briere scored twice for Buffalo, which came back from a 3-0 deficit only to lose on a goal with 2:53 to play.
"It's frustrating because we didn't quit," said Briere, who scored for the first time in seven games. "We put a lot of effort into it and you come out emptyhanded, no points like that, but at least we showed a lot of character."
The Blue Jackets (18-25-5) have dropped five of seven, but beat Detroit 3-1 last Friday in their final game before the break. The victory came one day after they tied a franchise record with their 11th shutout loss of the season, 4-0 at Nashville.
The Blue Jackets held a brief team meeting after that defeat.
"We as players put a lot on this game," said Adam Foote, who had a goal and an assist against Detroit. "We weren't too happy with our play last night. We realize we have to all buckle down and do our own job. If we do that we'll be tough to beat."
Columbus has lost its last two games against Buffalo - the most recent of which came on March 29, 2004 - after posting three wins and a tie in the first four meetings.
-- Associated Press