Free Agency Approaching

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Girgensons

Mark Pysyk figured he was in the Sabres' plans. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Fresh off his first full NHL season, Mark Pysyk figured he was in the Sabres’ long-term plans. With the defenseman skating regular minutes in 55 games, the team improved 27 points, moving from last overall to 23rd.

“I wasn’t really banking on anything happening,” Pysyk told the Times Herald by phone Sunday.

Then Saturday morning, as Pysyk slept, his phone began lighting up with calls and texts. Eventually, his fiancé informed him the Sabres had just traded him to the …

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Rasmus Ristolainen has been a strong pick for the Sabres. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – To thrive in the modern NHL, teams must build through the draft. It’s that simple. The days of loading up with veteran players through free agency or trades are long gone. The league belongs to the 20-somethings now, and if teams draft poorly, they’re doomed.

How good are the Sabres at drafting? Judge for yourself below. Since drafts usually don’t start paying dividends for a few years, here’s a look at their selections from 2008-13. Eighteen of Buffalo’s 47 …

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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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Sabres goalie Jason Kasdorf makes a first-period save in his NHL debut Friday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – In the big picture, failing to hit a .500 points percentage, a notable mark the Sabres sorely wanted, shouldn’t matter much.

The Sabres’ 4-1 loss in Friday’s home finale to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets secured their third straight losing season (34-36-11), and like so many other home games recently, they let a weak opponent exploit them.

Still, the Sabres’ recent 7-2-2 run thrust them up the standings, giving them a real goal – they haven’t finished .500 since 2012-13 …

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Cole Schneider has strong AHL numbers. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – When Williamsville native Cole Schneider walked into the First Niagara Center on Thursday morning, it marked the first time the new Sabres winger had been in the building since he competed in a showcase of local high school players in 2008.

A lot happened to Schneider, 25, in between his trips to rink.

Schneider, who grew up cheering for the Sabres, will make his NHL debut in tonight’s home finale against the Columbus Blue Jackets after playing 287 AHL games.

“He’s …

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Tyler Ennis suffered a concussion Dec. 30. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In the more than three months Tyler Ennis spent recovering from a concussion, the Sabres winger reflected on and developed a greater appreciation for what he calls “such a great job.”

For the first six years of his career, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Ennis, 26, had been remarkably durable, rarely missing action. Then injuries started ravaging him this season. After missing 16 games early, he suffered a scary concussion Dec. 30 in Washington.

Ennis had never experienced anything like it. That’s …

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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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Chad Johnson has won seven of his last eight starts. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – Having traveled around the NHL in a secondary role for years, Sabres goalie Chad Johnson usually gets pegged as a career backup.

Johnson, after all, is just months away from turning 30 years old. Goalies usually grab the No. 1 job by their mid-20s. The Calgary native has played for five teams, including four in the last three years. He had never played more than 27 games in a season before this year.

But in just his third full campaign, …

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Nick Deslauriers beats Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson on Friday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

TORONTO – As a third- or fourth-liner known more for his fists than his soft hands, gritty Buffalo Sabres winger Nick Deslauriers has endured some long goal droughts.

While the likable Deslauriers scored his career-high sixth goal in Friday’s 3-1 home win against the Ottawa Senators, he has only 12 in his 160-game career. After scoring three times in the first 11 games this season, the former defenseman went 41 appearances before finally scoring again March 3.

“I told him he needs …

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