Rasmus Ristolainen (left) fights Toronto's James van Riemsdyk on Feb. 11. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Rasmus Ristolainen’s suspension surprises Sabres

BUFFALO – Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen never expected he would be suspended for hitting Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel in the head Tuesday. Coach Dan Bylsma never expected the ban would be so long.

But in the end, the Sabres will be without their No. 1 defenseman and arguably best player for the next three games, starting with tonight’s home tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I didn’t expect anything,” Ristolainen said Friday following practice ... Read the full article

Rasmus Ristolainen must sit three games. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Rasmus Ristolainen never expected to be suspended

BUFFALO – Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen never expected he would be suspended for hitting Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel in the head Tuesday. Coach Dan Bylsma never expected the ban would be so long.

But in the end, the Sabres will be without their No. 1 defenseman and arguably best player for the next three games, starting with Saturday’s home tilt against Toronto.

“I didn’t expect anything,” Ristolainen said this afternoon following practice inside KeyBank Center.... Read the full article

Robin Lehner makes a save Tuesday. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Rasmus Ristolainen ejected in Sabres’ loss to Penguins

BUFFALO – Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen had a split-second decision to make as Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby dished the puck up to Jake Guentzel near their blue line early in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Penguins.

Ristolainen could lay back and play it safe, or he could assume the short pass would be completed and step up and throttle Guentzel.

The Finn went for the hit, but the pass was intercepted by teammate Zemgus Girgensons. ... Read the full article

Rasmus Ristolainen scored his first shootout goal on his first attempt Friday. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres workhorse Rasmus Ristolainen willing to carry load

BUFFALO – Back in August, a crew in Rasmus Ristolainen’s native Finland filmed the Sabres defenseman utilizing some slick shootout moves – in the video, he dekes right before deftly backhanding the puck in with just his left hand – during a practice session.

At the end of the clip posted on Youtube.com, Ristolainen says in Finnish he would showcase the same moves if he received an opportunity in an NHL shootout.

This season, the ... Read the full article

Justin Bailey has played 19 straight games. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Justin Bailey has opportunity to stay

BUFFALO – Right now, thanks to his torrid goal-scoring run in the AHL and some injuries with the big club, Sabres winger Justin Bailey has the best opportunity of his young career to stick in the NHL for good.

For the last five weeks, the speedy Bailey, 21, has enjoyed regular duty, playing 19 straight games. Some contests the Williamsville native has skated on a top line.

“It’s a really big one,” Sabres coach Dan ... Read the full article

Jake McCabe (29) knows a few more wins would have the Sabres in the thick of the playoff race. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Reeling Sabres still learning to win

BUFFALO – In what has become another disappointing season destined to end without a playoff appearance, the Sabres have endured 39 defeats. A few have been blowouts, but the club has usually been highly competitive, losing 20 one-goal affairs.

The Sabres have taken leads deep into games before melting down, losing seven contests in which they were up entering the third period.

Want a telltale sign of a team learning how to win? Try an ... Read the full article

Evander Kane (9) battles Chicago's Duncan Keith on Sunday. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres fall to Blackhawks, still begin bye feeling good

BUFFALO – It’s funny what a short three-game winning streak and few strong weeks can do for an NHL team.

After being given up for dead earlier this month, the Sabres have roared back into the playoff race, inching to within two points of the Atlantic Division’s final playoff spot and the wild card by Sunday afternoon.

Sure, clubs with games in hand stand between the Sabres and those coveted spots. Still, they’re back in ... Read the full article

Josh Gorges believes the Sabres have enough talent to make the playoffs. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres know style they must showcase

BUFFALO – To witness the Sabres’ blueprint for success, go back to the first 20 minutes of Saturday’s 3-1 win in Toronto, a period in which they jumped out to a 3-0 lead by playing fast and hard against the Maple Leafs.

“If you look at the first period in Toronto, we didn’t do anything special,” Sabres goalie Robin Lehner said Monday inside KeyBank Center.

The Sabres dictated the pace by pouncing on loose pucks. ... Read the full article

Tonight will be Evan Rodrigues' fifth NHL game. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres recall Evan Rodrigues again; Cody Franson out 2-3 weeks

TORONTO – This afternoon, hours before his fifth NHL game, Buffalo Sabres rookie Evan Rodrigues couldn’t stop smiling.

“He’s always all smiles,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said inside the Air Canada Centre.

True, Rodrigues, 23, always seems to be grinning. But tonight’s tilt, which will be broadcast across Canada on “Hockey Night in Canada,” is extra special for Rodrigues, who grew up a Maple Leafs fan in Etobicoke, about 20 minutes from Toronto.

“It’s going ... Read the full article

Josh Gorges had a hard time sitting out. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres notes: Josh Gorges returns; Nick Deslauriers stays at center

BUFFALO – The badgering has finally stopped. Josh Gorges is healthy, back playing after a hip injury cost him 12 games. So Sabres coach Dan Bylsma can walk by the defenseman again without getting an earful.

“Josh has been one miserable guy to be around,” Bylsma said Saturday morning. “I don’t walk by him without him saying he’s ready to play, and that was about 15 days ago.”

Gorges, 32, played in Saturday’s 4-0 win ... Read the full article