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Pens' Thorburn familiar with next foe

Rob Biertempfel
| Friday, Nov. 17, 2006

Chris Thorburn got very familiar with the Penguins during the last week of training camp, even though he was not yet on the team.

The rookie forward was in camp with the Buffalo Sabres, who faced the Penguins three times in the final week of the preseason.

Thorburn must have impressed the Penguins' coaches and scouts. When the Sabres cut Thorburn at the end of camp, the Penguins scooped him up.

Tonight, Thorburn will make his first trip back to Buffalo, as the Penguins take on the streaking Sabres.

"It was kind of weird, after I got picked up on waivers, coming in here and seeing these guys after playing against them so much," Thorburn said Thursday. "Now, I'm going back to play against Buffalo. It's kind of weird, but it's part of the business.

"It's exciting. I'll get to see a lot of guys who I kind of grew up with through hockey. But come Friday night, obviously, competition will come out in all of us."

Thorburn wants to show the Sabres that they should have thought twice before letting him go.

"Definitely, that's in the back of my mind," he said. "But I have to play within the system. I can't let my emotions get the best of me. The sweetest revenge would be for us to come out with a victory."

For Thorburn, staying within the system means skating with the fourth line and trying to make the most of limited opportunities.

"Wherever coach (Michel) Therrien puts me in the lineup, I've got no complaints," Thorburn said. "If I've got to fight, I'll fight."

For one game last week, Thorburn got to flash some offensive muscle. He replaced Colby Armstrong on the No. 1 line and scored in a 3-2 overtime loss over the Anaheim Ducks.

"It was nerve-wracking," Thorburn said of skating with Sidney Crosby. "But Sidney talked me through it. He told me to just keep my stick on the ice. He's got such great leadership skills -- for me being 23 and him only being 19, it's like, wow!"

The Penguins will need all their offensive might tonight against the Sabres, who sit atop the NHL after winning 15 of their first 18 games. Buffalo is 9-1 in one-goal games and 7-1 in overtime games.

"They really don't have a weak spot, from their goaltending on out," Thorburn said.

Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller (9-1, 2.64 goals-against average) is out with an abdominal injury, but Martin Biron (6-1, 3.26) is an able backup.

Daniel Briere (eight goals, 18 assists) and Tomas Vanek (12 goals, 11 assists) rank among the top 15 scorers in the league. The Sabres haven't had two top-25 scorers since 1992-93, when Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny were lighting it up.

Maxim Afinogenov was Buffalo's leading scorer through the first 13 games, but he has missed the past five games with a shoulder injury. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Afinogenov, a 27-year-old right wing, has been cleared by doctors and might play tonight.

With an infusion of young talent, the Sabres are proving to be a perfect fit for the new style of play in the league.

"They're built for speed and skill," Crosby said. "They have a deep team; all four lines can score. Their defensemen are good at moving the puck. They have a strong goalie. There's no doubt that their style is perfect for the new game."

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