Welcome back, Jack

Rasmus Ristolainen celebrates his overtime winner Thursday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – For more than one-quarter of the season, Rasmus Ristolainen, the Sabres’ workhorse defenseman, compiled the team’s oddest stat line: zero goals, 15 assists and 62 shots.

Despite averaging almost 27 minutes of ice time a night, Ristolainen, like the team’s other defensemen, couldn’t score.

Chalk it up it to bad luck. Chalk it up to his penchant for breaking sticks, which has often made him timid with the puck.

“We’ve been urging him to take the one-timer,” coach Dan Bylsma said …

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Erik Burgdoerfer spent his entire career in the minors before Monday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Less than three years ago, Sabres defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer was an unknown ECHL journeyman stuck two rungs below the NHL.

Four seasons into his career, Burgdoerfer, 27, had barely even sniffed the AHL.

His NHL dream was dying.

“When you play in the ECHL for four straight years, you’re turning 25, you definitely have some times when you’re doubting yourself,” Burgdoerfer said Tuesday prior to his second NHL game, a 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers inside KeyBank Center.

Burgdoerfer can …

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Connor McDavid stole the show last meeting. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The hype has died down a bit for the second meeting between Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid, the two dynamic centers drafted first and second in 2015.

When McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers visited Buffalo on March 1, it felt like the Sabres were hosting a playoff game. KeyBank Center had a buzz not felt around these parts in years.

Of course, plenty of hype still surrounds tonight’s meeting. A game featuring the youngsters will likely always be a marquee tilt. Reporters …

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Jack Eichel celebrates one of his two goals Thursday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Relax, Sabres fans. Center Jack Eichel, who tweaked his left ankle in Monday’s 3-2 overtime loss in Washington, will play tonight against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

“Going through an injury like this, you know it’s going to come back,” Eichel told a crowd of reporters this morning inside KeyBank Center.

High ankle sprains are notoriously tough injuries to overcome. Eichel dazzled early in his return, scoring three goals and four points in his first two outings.

Eichel finally felt …

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Erik Burgdoerfer signed a two-way contract in July. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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Less than three years ago, Erik Burgdoerfer was an unknown ECHL defenseman playing his fourth season with the Bakersfield Condors.

Tonight against the Washington Capitals, after a stunning 429 minor league games, Burgdoerfer will make his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres.

“I’m wondering how the heck, from what I’ve seen so far, (he) played five years in the East Coast Hockey League,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said during training camp. “Somebody somewhere has missed something, because the way he’s played …

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Dmitry Kulikov has battled a back injury all season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges has a non-displaced fracture in his foot and will be sidelined “weeks,” coach Dan Bylsma said Sunday.

There is, however, some good news for the Sabres’ injury-ravaged blue line, which is missing three regulars. Dmitry Kulikov, out the last 11 games with a back injury, practiced Sunday inside HarborCenter and is day-to-day, Bylsma said.

Still, the Russian likely won’t play in tonight’s road tilt against the Washington Capitals. Later in the week appears to be the …

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Dmitry Kulikov has missed 11 straight games. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges has a non-displaced fracture in his foot and will be sidelined “weeks,” coach Dan Bylsma said this afternoon.

There is, however, some good news for the Sabres’ beleaguered blue line. Dmitry Kulikov, out the last 11 games with a back injury, practiced today inside HarborCenter and is day-to-day, Bylsma said.

Still, it appears unlikely the Russian will return for Monday’s game in Washington. Later in the week appears to be the likely target date.

Incredibly, the Sabres, …

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Jack Eichel (15) pursue Boston's Patrice Bergeron on Saturday afternoon. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Back to reality. Following two high-scoring, entertaining wins last week, the Sabres reverted back into their regular form Saturday afternoon, losing 2-1 to the Boston Bruins in a drab affair inside KeyBank Center.

Incredibly, it was the Sabres’ ninth 2-1 game this season. They’ve only played 24 times. It marked the 12th time they’ve scored one goal or less.

After three early shots, the Sabres went the final 15:16 of the first period without registering one.

“I liked our first five …

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Brendan Guhle look comfortable Saturday afternoon. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Early in his NHL debut Saturday afternoon, Sabres rookie Brendan Guhle, like any youngster thrust into the spotlight, said he felt “a lot” of nerves.

Who could blame him? A day earlier, the defenseman was in British Columbia preparing for a junior Western Hockey League game.

On Saturday, after the Sabres made an emergency recall, they threw Guhle headfirst into the action, skating him 16 minutes, 20 seconds in their 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.

“First couple of shifts, I …

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Brendan Guhle was surprised to be recalled. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres defenseman Brendan Guhle was warming up with his junior Prince George Cougars teammates Friday when his coach gave him some unexpected news.

“Told me I was traded to the Sabres,” a smiling Guhle, who was summoned to help the Sabres’ beleaguered blue line, said this morning prior to his NHL debut.

Actually, the Sabres recalled Guhle, their top defense prospect, on an emergency basis for this afternoon’s tilt against the Boston Bruins inside KeyBank Center because Josh Gorges blocked …

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