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Crosby

Johan Larsson has thrived in a checking role. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The scouting report on Johan Larsson, the tenacious center Sabres coach Dan Bylsma often charges with shadowing the opposition’s top forwards, is short and straightforward.

“He’s grumpy, miserable, hard guy to play against,” Bylsma said Tuesday after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s tilt against the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center.

Wait, the quiet Larsson, an affable, well-liked teammate known as “Larry,” is grumpy? How often does that word appear in scouting reports?

“They call him ‘Grumpy Larry’ for a reason,” …

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Anders Nilsson makes a save in the second period on Saturday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In just five games with the Sabres, goalie Anders Nilsson has already earned the kind of confidence from his coach that often takes years to develop.

Instead of using No. 1 goalie Robin Lehner against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Dan Bylsma tabbed Nilsson, his backup, to play against the defending Stanley Cup champions on Saturday inside KeyBank Center, a tilt the Sabres won 2-1 in a shootout.

The Swede has impressed this season, so Bylsma figured with a busy schedule and …

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Anders Nilsson has looked impressive this season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Toward the end of the morning skate, backup goalie Anders Nilsson, not Robin Lehner, started skating to the Sabres bench.

Would Sabres coach Dan Bylsma really start his backup against the Pittsburgh Penguins over Lehner, his starter who has played 13 of the first 17 games?

After fiddling with his sticks at the bench for a few moments – it almost seemed like Nilsson was teasing everyone trying to see if he would leave first – he eventually left the …

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Josh Gorges (4) battles with Pittsburgh's Scott Wilson on Feb. 21. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – About 20 times tonight, Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges will jump over the boards to take on arguably the toughest task in hockey, trying to stop Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby.

Gorges will probably spend around 20 minutes defending Crosby and his linemates, a stiff challenge the 12-year veteran embraces.

To Gorges, the dynamic Crosby is the NHL’s best player, someone to measure yourself against.

“He just does things no one else can do,” Gorges said Friday after the Sabres prepared for …

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Tom Ward has an impressive high school resume. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres have hired Tom Ward, a top prep coach who groomed Sidney Crosby, Kyle Okposo and other future NHL players at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, as the final assistant on Dan Bylsma’s staff, the team announced this afternoon.

Ward, 52, spent the last 18 seasons as the head coach of the boys prep team at the Minnesota high school, winning nine USA Hockey National Championships and finishing as runner-up twice.

Shattuck is known for producing more NHL talent than any high …

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Auston Matthews should visit Buffalo with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 3. ©2016, Margaret Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – After the Sabres open their season Oct. 13 at home against the Montreal Canadiens, they start a four-game road trip – longer than any swing they had last season – three days later against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

That’s just one notable stretch of the 82-game 2016-17 schedule the NHL released Tuesday.

The Sabres, who went 19-17-5 on the road last season, better get comfortable playing away from the First Niagara Center early, as eight of their first …

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Jack Eichel and the Sabres open the season Oct. 13. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – After the Sabres open their season Oct. 13 at home against the Montreal Canadiens, they start a four-game road trip – longer than any swing they had last season – three days later against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

That’s just one notable stretch of the 82-game 2016-17 schedule the NHL released this afternoon.

The Sabres, who went 19-17-5 on the road last season, better get comfortable playing away from the First Niagara Center early, as eight of their …

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Ryan O'Reilly has 18 goals. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – For almost three months, Ryan O’Reilly compiled the Sabres’ oddest stat line.

On Jan. 8 in Chicago, O’Reilly scored his 17th goal. At that point, halfway through the season, the NHL All-Star was on pace for a career-high 34 goals.

Then, O’Reilly suddenly went dry, enduring a marathon drought before finally scoring short-handed early in Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss in Pittsburgh.

In that odd 24-game run, which was interrupted when a broken foot sidelined him 11 games, O’Reilly accumulated a gaudy …

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Jake McCabe has established himself with the Sabres this season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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PITTSBURGH – Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe understands how valuable the late-season NHL experience rookies Hudson Fasching and Casey Nelson have been gaining will be for their development.

Two years ago, McCabe, 22, left the University of Wisconsin following his junior year. McCabe loved college and wanted to stay with the Badgers. Still, as a former second-round pick ready for pro hockey, he knew he needed to join the Sabres.

“It made too much sense for me to leave,” McCabe said Tuesday …

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Ryan O'Reilly (90) will play left wing tonight. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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PITTSBURGH – With Buffalo Sabres winger Evander Kane sidelined for tonight’s tilt against the Penguins, coach Dan Bylsma will shuffle his lines, moving No. 1 center Ryan O’Reilly to the left wing beside pivot Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.

The Sabres’ new “super line” has 62 total goals this season. No one else in the lineup has more than 10.

Bylsma said forward Cal O’Reilly, a healthy scratch the last two games, will return. Zemgus Girgensons, Eichel’s winger recently will switch back …

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