Best wishes to RJ

Patrick Kaleta hasn't played in the NHL in almost a year. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Ten months away from the team he loves so dearly changed him. No, Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta hasn’t gone soft. But getting banished to the minors and tearing his ACL allowed the hard-hitting agitator to reflect on a career that derailed in just a few weeks.

“I’m as focused as I’ve ever been in my life, more serious,” Kaleta said Thursday inside the First Niagara Center following his training camp physical. “I’ve always been serious, but I think I’m …

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Matt Moulson re-signed with the Sabres on July 1. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – It’s an odd dynamic. Some fans, even the most diehard ones, want the Sabres to lose this season so they can draft a franchise-changing prospect.

“I didn’t come here to lose,” Sabres winger Brian Gionta said Thursday inside the First Niagara Center. “The first step is to get into the playoffs.”

That kind of talk has been rare here for the last 18 months as the Sabres quickly morphed into the NHL’s worst team. But as training camp opened Thursday, …

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Ted Nolan likes to see how other coaches operate. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Ted Nolan doesn’t attend many football games, but with Sabres owner Terry Pegula about to take over the Buffalo Bills, the coach said he “might be able to go to a couple.”

What Nolan would really like is a meeting with the Bills coaching staff.

“You learn different things from different points, so I’m looking forward to maybe getting to know the Bills coaching staff and maybe take some ideas from them and they can take some from us,” Nolan …

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Matt Moulson likes the Sabres' future. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Their faces told a story. One-by-one, Sabres players took their turn at a podium this morning, the start of training camp. Each one smiled and spoke optimistically.

They all talked about the great things the Sabres, the NHL’s laughingstock last year, can do this season after revamping the lineup this summer

“I didn’t come here to lose,” Sabres winger Brian Gionta, a July 1 signing, said inside the First Niagara Center. “The first step is to get into the playoffs.”

Sabres …

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Sam Reinhart skates last week at the NHL Prospects Tournament. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – If you love roster battles, the next three weeks of Sabres training camp should be fun.

About 34 players have a legitimate chance to crack the opening-night lineup. They have a prized prospect, slick center Sam Reinhart, vying for a spot. The starting goalie job is up for grabs. Defense spots are open. Nine or 10 guys will be competing for three fourth-line spots.

Players report for physicals today. The first on-ice session is Friday. Incredibly, the Sabres play their …

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Ron Rolston coached the Sabres briefly. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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Former Buffalo Sabres coach Ron Rolston has resurfaced as a pro scout in Arizona, where Darcy Regier serves as the Coyotes’ senior vice president and assistant general manager.

Regier was fired as Sabres GM with Rolston on Nov. 13. Regier hired Rolston to coach Buffalo in 2013.

Rolston hasn’t coached or been heard from much since leaving the Sabres. He turned up in Tampa Bay briefly last season, apparently to do some observing for Lightning coach Jon Cooper, his friend.

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Ted Nolan spent much of the summer finding a new coaching staff. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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HAMBURG – Following the most trying season in franchise history, Ted Nolan found some time to recharge this summer. Not a lot, however. The Sabres coach spent much of the offseason preparing for the upcoming campaign and honoring commitments around Buffalo.

“A summer of getting out with the old and beginning with the new,” a smiling Nolan said Tuesday at the Wanahak Country Club prior to the team’s annual golf tournament.

Two days before training camp opens, the new beginning was visible …

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Ted Nolan hired a new coaching staff this summer. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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HAMBURG – Earlier in the offseason, Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan phoned Hockey Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier to ask his old friend about a candidate he was considering for one of the vacant assistant coach positions.

Then a funny thing happened.

“I started asking him about certain things,” Nolan said this morning at the Wanakah Country Club prior to the team’s annual golf tournament. “I felt there was some enthusiasm in his voice about doing something that he grew up doing …

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Chris Stewart has played only five games with the Sabres. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – When Chris Stewart’s disappointing 15-goal season ended in April, the Sabres winger decided to stay put for the summer. Instead of returning home to Toronto, Stewart settled in a suburb and began preparing for what he called “another biggest season of my career.”

“I’ve been saying (that) for the last three, four years now,” Stewart, who hasn’t cracked the 20-goal mark since 2010-11, said last week after skating inside the Riverside Ice Rink.

This time, it’s true. Stewart, 27, is …

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Joel Armia rolls in on a breakaway as the New York Rangers’ Troy Donnay (53) gives chase Saturday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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So far, the Sabres are 0-2 in the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., with just two goals scored. They’ve had some chances, though.

Our Dan Hickling captured 2011 first-round selection Joel Armia roaring in on a breakaway in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers. The winger, who’s likely ticketed for Rochester in a few weeks, was stopped.

The Sabres have today off before playing the Dallas Stars on Monday.

Please follow Dan and Margaret for great photo updates!

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