Buffalo Coach Lindy Ruff would rather defer to reporters when asked to characterize this weekend's game between the NHL's two bankrupt franchises, the Sabres and Senators.

"It definitely is strange," he said. "You guys have come up with some pretty neat names for it, and . . . it sums up where we're at."

Buffalo plays at Ottawa today in a game that could be called the "Bankruptcy Bowl."

Hockey probably hasn't experienced such a financially troubled period since the upstart World Hockey Association ended its short-lived run in the late-1970s, when four surviving teams merged with the NHL.

It began with Ottawa, when the Senators filed for bankruptcy protection on Jan. 9 after two major banks balked at backing majority owner Rod Bryden's refinancing plan to retain the franchise.

The Sabres, who have been under the NHL's control since last June, followed five days later in an attempt to erase their debts and carry out a potential sale.

The teams' futures beyond this season remain uncertain, making Saturday's game both curious and disturbing -- a reflection of the uncertainty the NHL faces as it prepares to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with its players in 2004.

-- From News Services