The Eichel Era

Ryan O'Reilly hasn't scored since Jan. 8. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – As Ryan O’Reilly’s struggles have increased recently, so have the frequency of his talks with Sabres coach Dan Bylsma, who has told his top center to take a deep breath and relax.

Just a few months ago, as O’Reilly, 25, enjoyed a scorching start, the two didn’t need to chat much. But the Sabres’ lone NHL All-Star is extremely hard on himself. After nearly every loss, he almost sounds inconsolable as he laments his miscues and lost opportunities.

So naturally, …

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justin Bailey has been on a tear in Rochester. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres recalled rookie winger Justin Bailey, a Williamsville native who grew up rooting for the team, from the Rochester Americans this afternoon.

The 6-foot-4, 206-pound Bailey, 20, could make his NHL debut in Thursday’s road game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said earlier today winger Zemgus Girgensons and center Johan Larsson, who both missed Tuesday’s 7-4 loss to Florida, were questionable for the Flyers. Neither player practiced today.

Bailey, the 52nd overall pick in 2013, has …

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Sabres rookie Jack Eichel (15) battles Anaheim's Kevin Bieska earlier this season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Relax, everyone. Sabres rookie Jack Eichel only had a maintenance day from practice today, coach Dan Bylsma said. The 19-year-old will play Thursday in Philadelphia.

Bylsma said part of Eichel’s absence today inside HarborCenter was related to a shot block late in Tuesday’s 7-4 loss to Florida. Eichel also has a “couple bumps and bruises.”

In other injury news, center Johan Larsson and winger Zemgus Girgensons, who both sat out Tuesday, also missed practice. Bylsma said they’re being evaluated and …

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Sabres rookie Jack Eichel (15) rushes the puck Tuesday with Florida's Dmitry Kulikov in pursuit. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Following a dreadful first period Tuesday in which the Sabres imploded and fell behind 3-0 to the upstart Florida Panthers, some frustrated fans booed for one of the few times this season.

Not long ago, games like the Sabres’ wretched 7-4 loss inside the First Niagara Center – a contest hardly as close as the score might indicate – were gladly accepted by a fan base that valued a high draft pick over winning.

But these days, with coveted rookie …

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Brian Campbell should hit 1,000 games in April. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – More than 12 years later, the number is seared into Brian Campbell’s memory. It is a part of the popular former Sabres defenseman. After a Stanley Cup and multiple NHL All-Star appearances, it still motivates the Florida Panthers standout as he approaches a prestigious milestone.

Back in 2003-04, Campbell’s fifth NHL season, the youngster couldn’t crack the Sabres’ less-than-stellar defense corps, regularly serving as a spare part.

“I don’t forget how many healthy scratches I had,” Campbell said Tuesday prior …

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Johan Larsson (22) has been centering the third line. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres center Johan Larsson “had a little bit of an issue in the morning skate” and is a game-time decision for tonight’s contest against the Florida Panthers, coach Dan Bylsma said.

What if Larsson, who has been recently been pivoting the third line well, can’t play? Well, the Sabres might recall a forward from the AHL, Bylsma said. They could also use seven defensemen, something Bylsma doesn’t like but has done about 30 times in his coaching career, he …

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Dan Catenacci has played three seasons in the AHL. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In his first three AHL seasons, Sabres winger Dan Catenacci has developed what he believes is a strong relationship with his coaches. So the youngster was shocked when Randy Cunneyworth summoned him to his office Friday and the entire Rochester Americans’ staff began berating him.

What was the beef? Something Catenacci called a “nothing play” in the previous game.

“They started yelling at me,” he said Monday following practice inside the First Niagara Center.

An “angry” Cunneyworth eventually ordered Catenacci to …

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Marcus Foligno has missed one game. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres winger Marcus Foligno, who said a deep-tissue bruise kept him out of Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss in Boston, practiced today and could play Tuesday against Florida.

“We’ll see how tomorrow is,” Foligno said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center. “Right now, it’s just a pain tolerance. That’s all I can really say. Nothing really major, but it was just a (lower-body) tweak.”

Foligno, who said he had a jammed into him late Thursday, briefly left today’s session before …

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Robin Lehner has looked sharp in his last five appearances. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In the beginning of the season, back when the Sabres’ netminding was a huge question mark, coach Dan Bylsma said he scribbled some numbers on a board in goalie coach Andrew Allen’s office.

Countless components must mesh for success in the modern NHL, but if a coach doesn’t receive great goaltending in this low-scoring era, his team is essentially cooked.

Right now, Sabres goalie Robin Lehner has compiled stronger numbers – a 2.22 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage, …

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Dan Catenacci has never played an NHL game. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres winger Marcus Foligno suffered a lower-body injury during his last shift in Thursday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Bruins and will likely miss tonight’s rematch in Boston, coach Dan Bylsma said.

To replace Foligno, the Sabres recalled forward Dan Catenacci from the Rochester Americans on Friday. Catenacci, 22, could make his NHL debut tonight.

Foligno’s day-to-day, Bylsma said Friday following the Sabres’ optional practice inside HarborCenter.

“I don’t anticipate it will be week-to-week,” he said.

Catenacci has often been one of …

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