Best wishes to RJ

Mikhail Grigorenko finished last season in the AHL. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres have a slew of shiny new prospects in their arsenal competing for jobs this training camp. No. 2 pick Sam Reinhart’s gunning to make the team out of junior. Rasmus Ristolainen appears to have the inside track for a defense spot.

Meanwhile, Mikhail Grigorenko, the team’s top prospect less than two years ago, has been battling out of the spotlight.

“I can just focus on my game a little bit more,” the Russian said Monday inside the First …

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Ted Nolan doesn't use many advanced numbers. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – The analytics explosion hitting the NHL hasn’t been felt around the Sabres. Their coach, Ted Nolan, is an old-school guy. He doesn’t need advance stats to evaluate a player.

“The information I use is with my eyes and my soul and my heart,” Nolan said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center. “If I see someone who’s competing and I know he’s competing, that’s good enough for me. I don’t need a machine telling me how hard he worked. …

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Sam Reinhart was back on the ice this morning. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sam Reinhart’s NHL preseason debut wasn’t exactly memorable. In 16 minutes, 53 seconds spread over 19 shifts, the slick center was a minus-1 and compiled zero shots in the Sabres’ 1-0 loss to the Washington Capitals.

But as the game went on Sunday, Reinhart, the No. 2 pick in June, said he felt more comfortable.

“That’s the biggest thing that I’m focusing on right now,” Reinhart, who will play in Tuesday’s preseason home opener, said today inside the First Niagara …

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Phil Varone played nine NHL games last season. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Phil Varone’s nine-game run last season grabbed coach Ted Nolan’s attention. The 5-foot-10 forward played well during his first NHL recall, compiling one goal and two points while taking a regular shift.

But Varone, who will play in today’s preseason opener in Washington, couldn’t convert a slew of scoring opportunities he generated.

“The difference between him and (Martin) St. Louis and players of that caliber who’s a smaller structure, when they have an opportunity to put it, they put it …

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Matt Moulson (left) shares a laugh with Tyler Ennis on Saturday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Through all the losses last season, through all the stress and uncertainty, Matt Moulson kept envisioning the future here.

The high-scoring winger endured the toughest season of his career in 2013-14, skating for three teams during a dizzying six-month stretch. The Sabres lost 28 of the 44 games he played. They changed coaches and general managers. Days before they traded him to the Minnesota Wild, Pat LaFontaine resigned as president of hockey operations.

Still, Moulson saw a bright vision from …

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Nikita Zadorov played seven NHL games last season. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – Ask Ted Nolan about playing teenagers in the NHL, and the Sabres coach will tell you very few possess the maturity to play there at such a young age.

Shortly after Nolan took over in November, the Sabres sent Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, two defensemen drafted in the first round months earlier, away for more seasoning.

On Friday, Nolan was asked if the Sabres could potentially play the two 19-year-olds on the blue line this season.

“Rasmus is one of …

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Michal Neuvirth only played two games with the Sabres. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – They’ve been friends for years. Sabres goalies Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth grew up facing each other overseas. When their careers shifted to North America, they kept competing all the way to the NHL.

These days, the 26-year-olds are challenging for the same spot, the No. 1 goalie position.

“It’s Jhonas and Neuvirth’s time,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said Friday inside the First Niagara Center following the first session of training camp.

The competition should be a friendly one. The two …

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Sam Reinhart skates this morning. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Hey, it’s never too early for line and defense combinations, right? Clearly, coach Ted Nolan has formed trios and pairs he believes could be used in the regular season.

Here are some notable ones the Sabres are using today during the opening session of training camp (left to right):

– Marcus Foligno, Sam Reinhart and Chris Stewart.

– Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford.

– Cody Hodgson, Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Gionta.

Following his first camp practice, Reinhart, the No. 2 pick …

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Patrick Kaleta hasn't played in the NHL in almost a year. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

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
1

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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