Alex Tuch battles Buffalo's Josh Gorges on Saturday afternoon. ©2018, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Former Sabres fan Alex Tuch enjoys Buffalo ‘homecoming’

BUFFALO – When Alex Tuch mentioned the number of fans who would be watching him play Saturday afternoon, no one was sure if the Syracuse native was joking.

“Maybe a little bit more than 400,” the Vegas Golden Knights rookie winger said Friday.

Cheering sections for local players and even some from further locales are common at KeyBank Center. Following games, family and friends often congregate around the Zamboni entrance and wait for their hero ... Read the full article

Brian Gionta salutes the crowd prior to his 1,000th NHL game March 27. ©2017, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Former Sabres captain Brian Gionta excited to represent Team USA

BUFFALO – Before Brian Gionta caught his afternoon flight to Germany to represent Team USA at the Deutschland Cup, the former Sabres captain wanted one last on-ice workout.

Since Gionta couldn’t make it to Rochester, where he has been practicing with the AHL Americans, he called Matt Ellis, his friend and former Sabres teammate.

So for an hour Monday inside HarborCenter, Ellis and Nick Tuzzolino, two coaches at the Academy of Hockey, put Gionta, ... Read the full article

Matt Ellis skates in his final NHL game April 11, 2015. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Former Sabre Matt Ellis happy in retirement, excited for future

BUFFALO – As last season unfolded, popular former Sabres forward Matt Ellis sensed the inevitable end to his long and unlikely career.

At times, Ellis, 35, said he felt like a spare part with the Rochester Americans, a victim of age and a changing game. AHL veteran rules often forced him to sit out as a healthy scratch. The adversity, he believes, tested his character and how badly he wanted to keep playing.

“There ... Read the full article

Nick Baptiste scored 13 goals last season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres prospect Nick Baptiste building off rookie season

BUFFALO – Sabres prospect Nick Baptiste understands coming off consecutive 40-goal junior seasons, his rookie campaign with the Rochester Americans looks a bit underwhelming.

“Whenever you go from 40 goals to 13, it’s obviously a pretty steep decline,” Baptiste said Friday after rookie camp opened inside HarborCenter. “But it’s a different league. It’s pro hockey. You’re playing against 30-year-old men versus 18-year-old boys. It’s a lot different.”

For two years, Baptiste, 21, was quietly one ... Read the full article

Linus Ullmark struggled late in the season in Rochester. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres goalie prospect Linus Ullmark confident after tough stretch

ROCHESTER – In the midst of a nine-game AHL winless stretch in which Buffalo Sabres prospect Linus Ullmark allowed 37 goals, the rookie goalie received a much-needed confidence boost.

When a bruised finger prevented goalie Chad Johnson from playing April 9, the Sabres recalled the struggling Swede from the Americans hours before their season finale against the New York Islanders.

In his first NHL start since Jan. 12, Ullmark helped the Sabres win 4-3 in ... Read the full article

Matt Ellis will have options if he retires. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Popular Amerks veteran Matt Ellis pondering future

ROCHESTER – Physically, Matt Ellis said, he hasn’t felt this good in four or five years. At 34 years old, having just finished his 14th pro season, the popular former Buffalo Sabres forward believes he could keep playing.

“I definitely feel like I got lots left in the tank,” Ellis said Thursday inside the Blue Cross War Memorial.

Still, Ellis understands he could be nearing retirement. This season, his first out of the NHL ... Read the full article

Andrey Makarov became a spare part late this season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Goalie Andrey Makarov likely done with Sabres organization

ROCHESTER – It rarely happens. In fact, it might have been a first. Five days after posting a 30-save shutout, the Americans scratched a healthy Andrey Makarov for their next game, Friday’s 5-0 loss to Albany.

Top Buffalo Sabres goalie prospect Linus Ullmark started the home finale. Nathan Lieuwen, just back from his three-week NHL stint, backed up the Swede.

The loquacious Makarov, 22, watched from the stands wearing a suit.

Two years ago, ... Read the full article

Justin Bailey just scored his 20th goal. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres prospect Justin Bailey thriving with Amerks

ROCHESTER – Before Americans winger Justin Bailey started his first pro season, he set a significant goal for himself. The Williamsville native wanted to score 20 times, a tough number for anyone, let alone a rookie, to reach in this low-scoring era.

“I think it’s something that in the beginning I strived to accomplish,” Bailey said Thursday inside the Blue Cross War Memorial after the AHL club prepared for tonight’s home finale against the Albany ... Read the full article

Phil Varone scored his fifth NHL goal Saturday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Phil Varone feeling good after goal in season debut

BUFFALO – Just 18 days ago, when the Rochester Americans made their yearly visit to the First Niagara Center, Phil Varone watched as a healthy scratch. At that point, almost halfway through his fifth professional season, the forward appeared to be on the outs with the Sabres organization.

Despite playing 28 NHL games last year and earning a contract worth $200,000 in the minors, Varone’s poor play and the Amerks’ glut of veterans helped him ... Read the full article

Phil Varone has been a healthy scratch this season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Phil Varone one of Amerks caught in veteran crunch

ROCHESTER – One of the oddest situations in the minors is unfolding with the AHL Americans, the Buffalo Sabres’ high-priced affiliate. The club has too many veterans, meaning some notable talent earning six figures has been forced to sit out to comply with league development rules.

The Amerks scratched Jerry D’Amigo and Patrick Kaleta, two forwards with 379 games of NHL experience, Friday. Forward Matt Ellis, an alternate captain less than a year removed ... Read the full article