Two Buffalo Sabres players were under observation today after possibly being exposed to a mysterious and potentially deadly respiratory illness.

Defensemen Rhett Warrener and Brian Campbell, who played in the Sabres' 4-1 victory over Montreal on Friday, did not travel with the team for its game at Carolina tonight.

Erie County Health Commissioner Anthony Billittier recommended the players remain isolated for 10 days, effectively ending their season because the Sabres play their last game on April 6.

"I think if they ventured out of the house. . . . I don't think that would be a big deal," Billittier said. "They're not quarantined."

He said Warrener and Campbell were being kept away from the team as a precaution and there was no medical emergency.

Team spokesman Mike Gilbert said the decision to hold the players back was a precaution and that neither has shown any signs of being infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

The decision was made after the team's doctors consulted with Erie County and New York state health officials. It was determined that there was what Gilbert called "a remote chance" that the players had limited exposure to the virus after a female relative of Campbell's visited them Monday. The players are roommates.

The relative, who lives in Toronto, was exposed at her job as a hospital worker in Ontario and was hospitalized after showing symptoms on Friday, Billittier said.

He said the likelihood is low that the players were infected because SARS is not believed infectious unless a person shows symptoms.

Warrener said he and Campbell were feeling well and not very concerned.

"I'm okay. . . . We're fine," Warrener said. "I'm not too worried."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has been in contact with Sabres and health officials.

"We believe that the measures being taken are erring on the side of caution and even over-caution," NHL spokesman Frank Brown said. "The people who are involved on the medical end of this have done this from a position of conservative treatment. And that's, in our view, the appropriate step."