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Justin Bailey has 14 goals and 29 points this season. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – These days, the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium starts to buzz each time Sabres prospect Justin Bailey touches the puck. The 6,200 fans sense something special is about to happen.

Bailey, a slick 19-year-old winger, might score another scintillating goal.

“He’s an electrifying player,” Kitchener Rangers coach Troy Smith said by phone Wednesday. “Whenever he’s out there, our fans, you can kind of hear the buzz in the building just because of his speed and his ability. He has the ability at …

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Brian Flynn steals the puck from Toronto goalie James Reimer on Saturday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – For one night at least, the First Niagara Center felt like the old days. A raucous capacity crowd of 19,070 fans roared from start to finish Saturday. The Sabres buzzed up and down the ice all night against the hated Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring goals and creating chance after chance.

The Sabres’ rollicking 6-2 win, just their second regulation triumph this season and first at home, was wildly entertaining, high-octane hockey.

Up in the Ted Darling Memorial Press Box, legendary …

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Rick Jeanneret talks last year in Rochester. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – To winger Patrick Kaleta, who grew up in nearby Angola listening to Rick Jeanneret call games, the greatest perk of playing for the Sabres isn’t money or prestige.

“One of the best, if not the best thing about being a Sabre is hearing your name called by Rick Jeanneret,” Kaleta said Friday inside the First Niagara Center. “I still get chills listening to some of stuff on YouTube.”

So whenever Kaleta needs to “get pumped up,” he listens to the …

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Rick Jeanneret called a game from the bench last season. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Whenever Patrick Kaleta needs to “get pumped up,” the Sabres winger goes to Youbtube.com and listens to legendary play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret call some famous goals.

“He makes the game so exciting,” the Angola native said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center. “It is one of the best, if not the best thing about being a Sabre is hearing your name called by Rick Jeanneret. I still get chills listening to some of stuff on YouTube. …

“I’m just …

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Rasmus Ristolainen practices Monday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – When you’re struggling and searching for anything to ignite the team, you experiment. So with nothing to lose, Sabres coach Ted Nolan paired Rasmus Ristolainen, 20, and rookie Nikita Zadorov, 19, together last game.

The defensemen became the Sabres’ top tandem in Saturday’s ugly 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh, each skating more than 20 minutes, more than Tyler Myers. Zadorov wasn’t on the ice for any goals against.

“If you look at both of them, one’s more on the defensive side …

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Sabres captain Brian Gionta (12) creates traffic in front of Montreal goalie Dustin Tokarski and defenseman Tom Gilbert. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Let’s say it was a busy day at work Wednesday, and when you sat down to watch the Sabres play the Montreal Canadiens, you dozed off until, oh, about 9:30 p.m.

You wouldn’t have missed anything notable.

The Sabres’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens before 17,837 fans inside the First Niagara Center was a real snoozer for 40 minutes.

Still, that’s the kind of effort the Sabres, 2-2-2 in their last six games, needed.

“The foundation we want to create …

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Nikita Zadorov played his third game Wednesday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – It went on for weeks. Each day, 19-year-old Nikita Zadorov, the eighth defenseman most of this season, asked Sabres coach Ted Nolan if he would play.

“He asked me every day,” Nolan said Wednesday prior to the Sabres’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens inside the First Niagara Center.

Finally, Nolan gave his assistant coaches a message: “Tell him I’ll tell him when he’s in.”

After sitting the first seven games and 11 of the opening 12, Zadorov has played …

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Rasmus Ristolainen skated a career-high 25 minutes, 30 seconds on Sunday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In Sunday’s 3-2 shootout win against Detroit, four Sabres defensemen – Josh Gorges, Tyler Myers, Andrej Meszaros and Rasmus Ristolainen – skated more than 25 minutes.

Expect to see the defensemen play big minutes tonight against the Montreal Canadiens inside the First Niagara Center. To Sabres coach Ted Nolan, it’s no big deal.

“Twenty, 24 minutes a day is not too hard, I don’t think,” Nolan said. “It’s 24 minutes of a 24-hour day. So you have lots of time …

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Michal Neuvirth kept the Sabres in Tuesday's game. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – It turns out that nice win three days earlier was an anomaly. The hapless Buffalo Sabres reverted back into a laughingstock in Tuesday’s embarrassing 4-0 loss to the Maple Leafs, getting thoroughly dominated throughout their eighth loss in 10 tries this season.

How ugly was Buffalo’s effort?

The Sabres, three weeks into their 44th season, sprinkled a franchise-low 10 shots on Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier. The Leafs, meanwhile, pumped 37 shots on Sabres netminder Michal Neuvirth.

“I don’t know who we …

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Josh Gorges (4) leads the NHL in blocked shots. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – Take away the character, take away the tenacity, and Buffalo Sabres veteran Josh Gorges becomes a run-of-the-mill defenseman.

The undrafted Gorges has built an unlikely 10-year NHL career by showcasing passion – on and off the ice.

“I have to play with my heart,” Gorges, whose Sabres play the Maple Leafs tonight, said Monday. “I have to play everything I got every shift.”

The 30-year-old believes he couldn’t do either of those wearing the blue-and-white of the hated Toronto Maple Leafs.

Four …

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