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McCabe

Jake McCabe has been playing big minutes. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe, like most hockey players, has a pretty straightforward nickname he was given years ago, “Caber.”

But these days, McCabe, 23, is a top-pair defender, skating in every situation for a team whose blue line has been ravaged by injuries in recent weeks.

So the Wisconsin native’s versatility has earned him another moniker.

“We joked around, called him ‘The Swiss Army Knife,’” center Ryan O’Reilly said Thursday after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s tilt against the Washington Capitals …

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Connor McDavid stole the show last meeting. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The hype has died down a bit for the second meeting between Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid, the two dynamic centers drafted first and second in 2015.

When McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers visited Buffalo on March 1, it felt like the Sabres were hosting a playoff game. KeyBank Center had a buzz not felt around these parts in years.

Of course, plenty of hype still surrounds tonight’s meeting. A game featuring the youngsters will likely always be a marquee tilt. Reporters …

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Jack Eichel celebrates a goal Thursday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – For the first time this season, energy filled the KeyBank Center all night. Jack Eichel, the Sabres’ dynamic young star, was making his long-awaited home debut Thursday, and the normally quiet building buzzed with excitement.

Eichel couldn’t generate much early against the New York Rangers. The second-year center had some skate issues, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.

But by the second period, it looked like Eichel might bust loose.

“He showed some dynamic play and showed how he could take over …

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Evander hasn't scored this season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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OTTAWA – Five years ago, Buffalo Sabres winger Evander Kane enjoyed the best start of his eight-year career, scoring 18 times in his first 36 games for the Winnipeg Jets, a torrid 41-goal pace over a full season.

Then, in the midst of his career year, Kane suddenly endured an 11-game goal drought.

“Maybe I could’ve scored 40 if I didn’t have that slump,” Kane said to Tuesday prior to recording an assist in the Sabres’ 5-4 win against the Senators inside …

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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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Robin Lehner wasn't busy in overtime. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In the modern NHL, contests like the Sabres’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators – low-scoring, drab affairs – are all too common.

An abundance of speed and slick talent in the game hasn’t translated into more entertainment or goals. Instead, teams executive rigid systems, playing it conservative.

Wednesday’s snoozer before 17,884 fans inside KeyBank Center was a prime example.

“I don’t think either team gives a lot of room out there, especially in the neutral zone,” Sabres coach Dan …

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Robin Lehner made 32 saves Saturday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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OTTAWA – Buffalo Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, coach Dan Bylsma said recently, gets a twinkle in his eye whenever he plays the Senators.

Lehner, 25, clearly relishes beating his old team, which traded him to keep Saturday’s counterpart, Craig Anderson, who’s 10 years older.

“Absolutely I can tell that,” a grinning Bylsma said following the Sabres’ 2-1 comeback win, a game in which Lehner starred, stopping 32 shots.

The Swede dazzled strong throughout his fourth straight start, allowing the Sabres to roar back …

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Rasmus Ristolainen (55) tries to keep the puck away from Montreal's Phillip Danault on Thursday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Technically, the Sabres’ defense pairs are numbered.

Rasmus Ristolainen and his partner, Josh Gorges or Dmitry Kulikov, form the top tandem. Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe are No. 2. Cody Franson and Casey Nelson skated as the third opening night.

On paper, the defense (average age: 27) has the makings of a solid group. Still, the Sabres don’t have an elite pair. Sure, Ristolainen is the undisputed No. 1. But on a playoff team, for example, he wouldn’t be relied …

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Rasmus Ristolainen is the Sabres' top defenseman. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Rasmus Ristolainen said he trusted a new contract would be finished. Still, the Sabres defenseman wasn’t sure if his deal would be completed before tonight’s season opener.

“Thursday was coming pretty quick,” said Ristolainen, who signed a six-year, $32.4 million contract Tuesday, ending a brief holdout.

The Finn, 21, practiced Wednesday beside new partner Dmitry Kulikov as the Sabres prepared for the Montreal Canadiens inside KeyBank Center.

Ristolainen briefly left the Sabres earlier this week. He had been practicing as a …

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Brendan Guhle has impressed again this preseason. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres prospect Brendan Guhle tries not to think about it. The defenseman doesn’t ask any questions, either.

He’s happy as long as he’s in Buffalo.

“It’s definitely a little nerve-racking, I’d say,” Guhle said Thursday inside KeyBank Center.

Six days before opening night, Guhle, 19, is still battling to make the Sabres out of training camp as a junior-age player, a rarity.

Thanks to injuries to defensemen Zach Bogosian (groin) and Dmitry Kulikov (bruised tailbone) and Rasmus Ristolainen’s long contract negotiation, Guhle’s …

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