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BRUINS NOTEBOOK

Knee is an overnight success, so Samsonov suits up

BUFFALO -- Considering the frustrating season he's had, Bruins left wing Sergei Samsonov certainly seemed due for a break. Yesterday he got one.

One day after a scary incident in practice during which he was fallen on by teammate Josh Langfeld, Samsonov said his right knee was only slightly sprained, and after a twirl during the morning skate, he played in last night's important Northeast Division matchup, a 3-2 loss to the Sabres at HSBC Arena.

''It ended up being nothing," said Samsonov, who said he felt fine after logging 24 shifts over 18 minutes 30 seconds of ice time. ''It got better overnight.

''I've had those injuries before, and sometimes they can take two weeks or longer. This one was just a little scare, no big deal. There was no swelling, so that was a good sign, too.

''Obviously, it could've been a lot worse. I'm happy the way it turned out."

Samsonov is well aware that 3 p.m. tomorrow is the NHL trade deadline, and he knows there's a chance he could change teams.

''I just try not to think about it as much," he said. ''Just go out, do your job, and whatever happens, happens. There's nothing you can do, it's out of your control, so you might as well not worry about it. I'd like to stay -- I've always said that.

''When you play the game, you're into the game. You don't think about stuff like that; it's when you have some time on your hands and you just kind of hear things or read things and stuff starts drifting into your head. Other than that, it doesn't really affect you on the ice."

He's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, so Samsonov understands why the rumors have persisted. He said he's as prepared as he can be for whatever transpires.

''From my standpoint, I have no control over it, so you might as well not worry about it," he said. ''This season has been pretty weird. I can see their point. We'll see what happens in the future."

With Samsonov iffy heading into yesterday, rookie Ben Walter was recalled from Providence for precautionary reasons, but he didn't dress.

''I think he has a wealth of ability and it's just more of a case where he needs to play more hockey," said coach Mike Sullivan on Walter's development in his first season.

In 43 games with Providence, Walter has 29 points (11 goals).

Keep your distance
Like several of his players, Sullivan didn't sound happy with the amount of contact the Sabres made with Thomas, both last night and Saturday. ''It seems to me there was a lot of contact," said the coach. ''There was a lot of contact with our goaltender. I didn't notice as much [Saturday] until I watched the game film. It was something we tried to bring to the attention of the referees before the game started." . . . After two games backing up Andrew Raycroft, Tim Thomas was back in net. ''It's a little different perspective to watch the game from the bench," said Thomas, who entered the game with a record of 8-4-4, a goals-against average of 2.28, and a save percentage of .927. ''It increased my respect for the guys, because I see how hard they are working. During the game a lot of times, I'm watching the puck so much that I don't get to see the little things that the guys are doing."

Discipline lacking
Both clubs had 14 minutes in penalties last night, but Sullivan wasn't happy with some of the infractions his players took. He believes his team has to be more disciplined in certain areas. ''The time we take penalties, where we take them on the ice," he said, ''the first period we take three penalties and two of them are 200 feet from our net. We have to be smarter than that." Two of the Sabres' three goals came on the power play . . . P.J. Axelsson, who strained his left knee March 1 against Carolina, missed his second straight game and is questionable for tomorrow night against Montreal. ''Axy is getting closer," said Sullivan. ''Hopefully he won't be out for any extended length. These are critical games for us. The more healthy guys we can get in our lineup, the better it is for us."

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