Jordan Samuels-Thomas was drafted by Atlanta. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Hulking prospect Jordan Samuels-Thomas ready for fresh opportunity with Sabres

BUFFALO – As a seventh-round pick, Jordan Samuels-Thomas faced some long odds to earn an NHL contract. But the 6-foot-4, 220-pound winger possesses size, a precious commodity in today’s game.

The Sabres have made it no secret they covet “heavy,” hard-to-play-against talent for their rebuild. So they shipped a 2015 seventh-rounder to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday for Samuels-Thomas’ rights.

They signed the Connecticut native to a one-year, two-way contract Saturday.

“I was ... Read the full article

Colton Gillies couldn't find work during the summer. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Amerks’ Colton Gillies hoping impressive AHL season leads to another NHL gig

ROCHESTER – The summer dragged on and on, and Colton Gillies, a former first-round pick with 154 games of big league experience, couldn’t find any work.

Gillies was still months away from turning 25. He had just spent two straight seasons in the NHL. At 6-foot-4, he possessed size, a precious commodity, yet skating was his biggest asset.

Still, no one wanted him.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Gillies said Saturday after a gritty ... Read the full article

Colton Gillies had a goal and two points Saturday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Amerks hold late lead, tie series against Wolves

ROCHESTER – A night after blowing a late 3-1 lead and losing the playoff opener in overtime, the Americans experienced deja vu.

“It was ‘Groundhog Day,’” coach Chadd Cassidy joked Saturday after the Amerks grinded out a 3-2 win against the Chicago Wolves, tying the best-of-five Calder Cup playoff series. “We go up 3-1. Rasmus (Ristolainen), just a complete bomb off the crossbar.

“Same thing happened (Friday). We had a chance to go up 4-1 ... Read the full article

Tim Schaller scored seven goals in the final seven regular-season games. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres prospect Tim Schaller developing into all-around talent with Amerks

ROCHESTER – On April 5, the Americans began the third period of a pivotal late-season tilt trailing the Marlies 3-0. Twenty minutes later, buoyed by fourth-line center Tim Schaller’s natural hat trick, they had rallied for a stunning 4-3 victory in Toronto.

Schaller had four goals in 65 AHL games before scoring three times in a 14-minute stretch.

“I didn’t think it would ever happen, but it did,” Schaller said last week inside the Blue ... Read the full article

Mikhail Grigorenko has played nine AHL games this season. ©2014, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko thriving with AHL Amerks

ROCHESTER – Finally, almost two years after the Buffalo Sabres drafted him 12th overall, center Mikhail Grigorenko has landed in the AHL.

Just weeks before his 20th birthday, the prospect too good for junior but too green for the NHL has settled in nicely with the Americans.

The Amerks closed the regular season 7-1-1 with Grigorenko, who recorded his four assists in his first three appearances.

But numbers aren’t important right now.

“Maybe ... Read the full article

Chad Ruhwedel believes Zac Rinaldo's hit was dirty. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Amerks’ Chad Ruhwedel impressive in return from concussion

ROCHESTER – Chad Ruhwedel said his first concussion “wasn’t fun.” The defenseman experienced bad headaches for a few days after Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo elbowed him in the head April 6 during a recall to the Buffalo Sabres.

Ruhwedel figured his regular season was over.

But the 23-year-old, who was sent to the AHL earlier this week, felt well enough to return Friday for the Americans’ 5-1 win against the Syracuse Crunch inside the Blue Cross ... Read the full article

Nicolas Deslauriers played his second NHL game Sunday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Move from defense to wing helped Sabres’ Nicolas Deslauriers earn notice, first NHL recall

BUFFALO – Nicolas Deslauriers started off as a fill-in. The Manchester Monarchs only had two forwards lines early in training camp, so the 23-year-old, one of 10 defensemen on the AHL club, moved up to the wing.

“They put me up front just to basically fill out the spots because there was nobody,” Deslauriers said Sunday prior to the Sabres’ 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks inside the First Niagara Center, his second NHL game. ... Read the full article

Mark Pysyk impressed during a 42-game run with the Sabres earlier this season. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres prospect Mark Pysyk still developing with Amerks

ROCHESTER – By most standards, Mark Pysyk is ready for regular NHL duty. His efficient, steady play during 42 appearances earlier this season earned the rookie praise as the Buffalo Sabres’ best defenseman.

But the 22-year-old is back with the Americans, riding buses again in the AHL.

At first, it appeared his Jan. 24 assignment would only be temporary. The Sabres wanted Pysyk to keep playing during the Olympic break, they said. Six weeks ... Read the full article

The Sabres acquired Rostislav Klesla on Wednesday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Amerks don’t know when new acquisition Rostislav Klesla will report to AHL club

ROCHESTER – Veteran defenseman Rostislav Klesla, an afterthought in Wednesday’s Jaroslav Halak-Michael Neuvirth trade, still hasn’t reported to the AHL Americans.

Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy said he still expects the 31-year-old Klesla, a veteran of 659 NHL games, to report.

So when will the Czech be joining the club?

“We’re still trying to figure that out at this point,” Cassidy said Friday following the Amerks’ 4-1 win against the Syracuse Crunch inside the Blue ... Read the full article

Phil Varone (84) spent some of his NHL debut beside Carolina goalie Anton Khudobin. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Phil Varone, family emotional over NHL debut; Sabres fall to Hurricanes

BUFFALO – The voice on the other end of the phone was excited. For a moment, Tony Varone thought his son, Sabres center Phil Varone, had been in a car accident.

“I said, ‘Is everything OK?’” the elder Varone recalled a day later inside the First Niagara Center.

Phil Varone, who nearly shunned the Sabres to play hockey for the University of New Brunswick in 2011, was calling with good news, though.

“He ... Read the full article