Sunday, April 6, 2003

Samsonov return bodes well for B's in playoffs

The Associated Press

BOSTON - Sergei Samsonov and the Boston Bruins' offense returned just in time.

The speedy Samsonov had a goal and assist after missing the previous 50 games following wrist surgery as Boston beat the Buffalo Sabres 8-5 Saturday.

Scoring chances will be more precious against the stingy New Jersey Devils in the first round of the playoffs. So Samsonov's performance and the Bruins' outburst are promising, especially after they had just eight goals in their previous five games.

"I'm just happy to be on the ice, never mind scoring," he said. "I was looking forward to this for a long time."

Samsonov, the NHL rookie of the year in 1997-98, brings skating and stickhandling that defenses must focus on. He said he's sure he'll be ready for the playoffs, which start in New Jersey.

"It brings a lot of anxiety to the other team," Boston coach Mike O'Connell said. "He opens up the ice for all the other players."

Samsonov joins an attack that includes Glen Murray and Mike Knuble, who each had two goals in Boston's regular-season finale, which clinched the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference.

"There might be a total of 13 goals in the whole series" against New Jersey, Murray said.

The Sabres will watch from the sidelines after missing the playoffs for the second straight season. They have one game left today.

"I don't think we've been outclassed in any game all year," goaltender Martin Biron said. "We were outclassed in the first period" Saturday.

Boston led 4-2 after the first period on two goals by Knuble, who finished with 30, and one each by Murray and Brian Rolston.

Daniel Briere and Miroslav Satan scored for Buffalo against goalie Steve Shields, Boston's probable playoff starter, who was replaced by Tim Thomas for the last two periods.

Thrashers 3, Islanders 2

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Playoff-bound New York ended the regular season in a slump as Atlanta rookie defenseman Joe DiPenta had a goal and an assist for his first NHL points.

The Islanders are winless in their last five games (0-4-1) but secured the league's final playoff spot Friday night, when the New York Rangers were eliminated with a loss to New Jersey. The Islanders open the playoffs in Ottawa.

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