five games left

Matt Ellis celebrates his first goal this season Wednesday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – It was a pretty goal, the type that can bring fans out of their seats before the puck is even in the net. Basically, it was the kind of goal Sabres center Matt Ellis never scores.

In 351 NHL games, Ellis has only 21 goals. The likable veteran hadn’t scored in 33 appearances this season prior to his nifty highlight-reel winner Wednesday in the Sabres’ 4-3 come-from-behind victory against the hapless Toronto Maple Leafs inside the First Niagara Center.

“Putting …

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T.J. Brennan played 21 games with the Sabres. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In the beginning, former Sabres prospect T.J. Brennan followed a normal path to the NHL. The high-scoring defenseman developed four seasons in the AHL before briefly cracking the Sabres two years ago.

Back then, Brennan, who grew up in New Jersey playing lacrosse, didn’t fully understand what it took to make the NHL.

“I’ve always been kind of learn as I go,” Brennan said Wednesday prior to the Sabres’ 4-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs inside the First Niagara …

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Andrej Meszaros has four goals in two games. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Andrej Meszaros’ revival started weeks ago, before the Sabres defenseman scored two goals in consecutive games during a three-day stretch.

After months of awful play, the 29-year-old Slovak started showcasing some of his old form, moving around the ice, utilizing his heavy shot and making fans wonder where that play has been all season.

Meszaros struggled from the get-go after signing a one-year, $4.125 million deal July 1.

Why did the former first-round pick have such a hard time adjusting earlier …

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Tyler Ennis (63) jostles with Florida's Brian Campbell earlier this season. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – Sometimes, Sabres winger Tyler Ennis said, he has to realize he’s only 5-foot-5 and not a 6-foot-3 behemoth. Trying to thump a larger opponent usually isn’t the best idea.

Ennis, who’s listed at 5-foot-9, went after someone bigger Thursday and paid the price, suffering an upper-body injury. The Sabres’ top offensive threat missed two games but will return tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Maybe I got to tone down the hits,” Ennis said this morning inside the First Niagara …

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Sabres goalie Anders Lindback tries to stop New Jersey's Steve Bernier (18) with Andre Benoit's (61) help March 20. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
2

BUFFALO – Just like that, 29th place – a precarious spot that wouldn’t guarantee the Sabres either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, the mega-draft prospects they covet – is back in play.

Sorry, fans, the race isn’t over yet. The Sabres’ 4-1 victory Monday in Arizona moved them to within four points of the Coyotes, who looked awful throughout the night.

The 30th-place Sabres also have a game in hand, so after tonight’s tilt against the hapless Toronto Maple Leafs inside the …

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Marcus Foligno was playing some of his best hockey ever in December. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
5

BUFFALO – Given the Sabres’ sorry state these days, it’s almost difficult to remember now. But for a brief stretch earlier this season, they morphed into a young team on the rise, winning a string of exciting games in dramatic fashion.

The rebuilding club triumphed 10 times in 13 games – they have only 20 victories in 75 outings all season – during a rollicking run in November and December, roaring back night after night.

The Sabres were never out of any …

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Andrey Makarov has never played an NHL game. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

The Buffalo Sabres recalled goalie Andrey Makarov from Rochester this afternoon, hours before their road game against the Arizona Coyotes.

The 21-year-old Russian is 15-17-3 with a 2.98 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in 37 games with the AHL Americans.

Sabres goalie Matt Hackett, who relieved Anders Lindback in Saturday’s 5-3 loss in Colorado, has been banged up and feeling sore after games. It’s unclear if Hackett’s injured.

Makarov has been recalled before but has never played an NHL game.

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Brian Gionta believes Sabres fans cheered for the team Thursday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – Brian Gionta wouldn’t go there. The Sabres captain knows his words carry weight.

Gionta played almost 25 minutes in the Sabres’ 4-3 overtime loss Thursday, a game in which many hometown fans rooted for the Arizona Coyotes, creating a bizarre scene inside the First Niagara Center.

Surely, the veteran heard the loud cheering for the opposition.

“No, our fans were cheering for us,” Gionta insisted Friday after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s road tilt against the Colorado Avalanche. “We have great …

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Arizona goalie Mike Smith pokes the puck away from Tyler Ennis on Thursday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sometimes you focus so much on the future, Sabres coach Ted Nolan said, the present can easily be forgotten about.

When the rebuilding Sabres surround Tyler Ennis with better talent in the coming years, the slick winger could become one of the NHL’s elite talents.

But right now, the 25-year-old, who will likely miss tonight’s game with an upper-body injury, is a special player. The former first-round pick is often the Sabres’ only offensive threat.

“He’s certainly a gift to watch,” …

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Nikita Zadorov (51) skates in on Philadelphia's R.J. Umberger earlier this year. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
3

BUFFALO – In Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes, Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov was benched, skating only nine minutes, 46 seconds.

“Maybe 10 minutes too much,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center.

Yikes!

Expect the 19-year-old rookie to be scratched Saturday in Colorado. Nolan has clearly grown tired of the Russian’s poor work habits.

“When you’re going for certain things, the expectations and what you have to do has to be a certain level, and if …

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