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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ The financially troubled NHL Sabres insist they will play in Buffalo next season. What happens beyond that _ and who will own them _ is anyone's guess.

The sudden meltdown of team owner John Rigas' fortune, which had been tied to the debt-ridden Adelphia Communications cable television giant, has placed the Sabres' future in question.

It doesn't help that Rigas has not provided any assurances _ or made any public statements _ regarding the Sabres in the past two months, adding to fears about the team's status.

Without disclosing who, Erie County Executive Joel Giambra said on Friday that there are a number of candidates to buy the team.

``There's a group of people that have the financial resources and the desire to become involved in the team if there's an opportunity,'' Giambra said.

That, combined with assurances he received from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to keep the team in Buffalo, left Giambra optimistic about the team's future in the city with or without the Rigas family as owners.

Rigas, along with his sons, recently stepped down from their top jobs at Adelphia, the nation's sixth-largest cable company.

Adelphia sustained its latest blow this week, inching closer to bankruptcy, with the NASDAQ Stock Market's decision to delist its shares.

The Rigas family operated the Sabres separately from Adelphia.

It has been left up to the NHL and team management to make assurances about the Sabres.

``We're kind of just moving along as we were before,'' Sabres spokesman Michael Gilbert said. He added there have been no restrictions placed on management to sign players, including four prospects the Sabres risk losing if they fail to sign them by Saturday.

``We're getting ready for the draft, season-ticket renewals. We're moving forward,'' Gilbert said.