Rasmus Ristolainen (55) tries to keep the puck away from Montreal's Phillip Danault on Thursday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres believe they can rely on entire defense

BUFFALO – Technically, the Sabres’ defense pairs are numbered.

Rasmus Ristolainen and his partner, Josh Gorges or Dmitry Kulikov, form the top tandem. Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe are No. 2. Cody Franson and Casey Nelson skated as the third opening night.

On paper, the defense (average age: 27) has the makings of a solid group. Still, the Sabres don’t have an elite pair. Sure, Ristolainen is the undisputed No. 1. But on a ... Read the full article

Cody Franson suffered a season-ending injury Feb. 19. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres need more defense depth

How remarkably healthy did the Buffalo blue line stay in 2015-16? The Sabres recalled a defenseman as an injury replacement just once.

Think about that. Over the course of the grueling six-month, 82-game season, the Sabres only dipped into the AHL on March 18, when they summoned Chad Ruhwedel to sub for Carlo Colaiacovo prior to their 72nd contest. Ruhwedel played that night and was quickly returned to the Rochester Americans.

The Sabres almost ... Read the full article

Zach Bogosian (47) showcased some speed Saturday afternoon against Detroit. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ defense corps much improved

BUFFALO – When Mark Pysyk returns from his broken foot later this week, the Sabres will receive a smooth, puck-moving defenseman and have what coach Dan Bylsma believes is a good problem.

Assuming no one else gets injured before Pysyk plays his first game since Nov. 17, the Sabres, who have used the same six defensemen the last 11 games, will have eight on the roster, “not a good number to have,” Bylsma said.

Still, ... Read the full article

Andrej Sekera might get snatched up early in free agency. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres might have short want list in free agency

BUFFALO – For a rebuilding team fresh off two consecutive 30th-place finishes, the Sabres’ shopping list entering free agency, which opens today at noon, is relatively small. A weekend of wheeling and dealing at the NHL Draft pretty much set the roster for the upcoming season.

The Sabres have two goalies, four forward lines and almost a full defense corps. Not bad for a team that finished 2014-15 using a patchwork lineup filled ... Read the full article

Sam Reinhart was assigned to Rochester on Thursday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Report: Sam Reinhart out a week with Amerks; Sabres recall Chad Ruhwedel

BUFFALO – Top Sabres prospect Sam Reinhart’s AHL debut with the Rochester Americans is in on hold.

The 19-year-old center, the No. 2 pick in June, has a nagging injury and will likely play for the team in one week, according to WHTK’s Rob Sanderson. It was expected Reinhart would play tonight when the Amerks host Toronto.

The Sabres assigned Reinhart to Rochester on Thursday, three days after his junior season ended.

In other ... Read the full article

Sam Reinhart should join Rochester soon. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres should close with intense opponents

BUFFALO – Expect the Sabres’ final two games this season – Friday’s road tilt in Columbus and Saturday’s finale against Pittsburgh – to be slightly more intense than Monday’s 4-3 home win against Carolina, a drab affair.

The Blue Jackets, having won nine straight games recently, are scorching. The Penguins might need the game to make the playoffs.

“Carolina’s out, we’re out,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “When you have two out, it’s tougher. But ... Read the full article

Sam Reinhart played nine games with the Sabres earlier this season. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres notes: Sam Reinhart going to Amerks; Connor McDavid ranks No. 1

BUFFALO – The Sabres will give top prospect Sam Reinhart another crack at the pro game this season.

With Reinhart’s junior season and career over, the No. 2 pick was assigned to the AHL Rochester Americans on Wednesday, according to the Kootenay Ice’s website.

The Calgary Hitmen eliminated the Ice on Monday in a seven-game first-round Western Hockey League playoff matchup

Reinhart started the season with the Sabres, registering one assist in nine ... Read the full article

Matt Hackett has played five games this season. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres practice 3-on-3; Goalie Matt Hackett ready to return

BUFFALO – Instead of a regular practice today, the Sabres held a three-on-three scrimmage officiated by assistant coach Tom Coolen, who barked out orders in a full referee outfit in front of a crowd of veterans invited by the team.

Players gleefully challenged his calls.

“We could actually tell what we really feel against one of our own,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan joked inside the First Niagara Center.

Nolan, whose team had Tuesday off, held ... Read the full article

Marcus Foligno has been playing big minutes. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Marcus Foligno looks to brother’s star play for inspiration

BUFFALO – For about 24 hours, Marcus Foligno enjoyed the family’s bragging rights. The Sabres winger felt good after scoring twice Friday, his first goals in 24 games.

Then Foligno’s older brother, Nick, a breakout star with the Columbus Blue Jackets, outdid him Saturday, scoring his first NHL hat trick and hitting the prestigious 30-goal, 70-point marks.

“He had to go out and one-up me,” Marcus Foligno joked Monday prior to the Sabres’ 4-3 win ... Read the full article

Johan Larsson tips the puck past Chicago goalie Scott Darling on Friday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Blackhawks’ late rally stuns Sabres

BUFFALO – In 47 seconds late Friday, the mood inside the First Niagara Center changed dramatically. The Sabres fans worrying their team would pull its most unlikely upset this trying season felt relieved as mighty Chicago Blackhawks quickly roared back.

When Chicago star Jonathan Toews tied it with 1:43 left, the building, which was filled with red Blackhawks jerseys, erupted.

Some hometown fans who had remained quiet as the Sabres erased an early 2-0 deficit ... Read the full article