C.J. Smith played two NHL games late in 2016-17. ©2018, Hickling Images

Sabres notes: C.J. Smith earns recall from Amerks

BUFFALO – Late in the 2016-17 season, the Sabres rewarded C.J. Smith with two NHL games after the forward left UMass Lowell following his junior year.

Then Smith, 24, quietly began the next season in the AHL, where he morphed into a top scorer and an intriguing prospect with the Rochester Americans.

Still, the Sabres kept Smith in the AHL nearly a year and a half before finally summoning him prior to Monday’s 3-1 ... Read the full article

C.J. Smith was piling up points in Rochester. ©2018, Hickling Images

Sabres look to C.J. Smith for spark

BUFFALO – Late in the 2016-17 season, the Sabres rewarded C.J. Smith with two NHL games after the forward left UMass Lowell following his junior year to sign an entry-level contract.

And then, Smith, 24, quietly went to the Rochester Americans, where he morphed into a top scorer and an intriguing prospect.

Still, the Sabres kept Smith in the AHL nearly a season and a half before finally summoning him this morning.... Read the full article

Kyle Okposo hasn't scored a goal since Nov. 13. ©2018, Hickling Images

Sabres’ Kyle Okposo enduring career-worst slump

BUFFALO – Kyle Okposo’s offensive slump has become startling.

The Sabres winger has a career-long 21-game goal drought entering tonight’s home tilt against the New York Islanders, his old team. The former NHL All-Star hasn’t even mustered an assist in the last 14 contests, the longest pointless stretch of his 12-year career.

Following a strong start, Okposo stopped producing around mid-November.

Incredibly, Okposo, who usually skates on the second line and power-play unit, is ... Read the full article

Matt Tennyson played 20 games with the Sabres last season. ©2018, Hickling Images

Matt Tennyson, Lawrence Pilut battling for spot on Sabres’ defense

BUFFALO – One training camp earlier in his career, Sabres defenseman Matt Tennyson said he knew he was locked into the sixth spot on the San Jose Sharks’ blue line.

“Other than that, I’ve just been grinding away, just trying to make it,” Tennyson said Thursday inside KeyBank Center after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s preseason finale.

Tennyson, 28, is the typical journeymen defensemen. He usually ranks anywhere from sixth to 10th on the depth ... Read the full article

Jack Eichel scored on the Sabres' first shot Thursday. ©2018, Michline Veluvolu, Olean Times Herald

Sabres blow early lead, score late to down Islanders

BUFFALO – Even by Sabres standards, their start in Thursday’s 4-3 win over the New York Islanders was bad.

The Sabres have consistently stumbled, even occasionally imploded, early in games this lost season, falling behind and generating little offense.

Unlike other outings, however, the Sabres kept the puck out of their net early Thursday. Still, they chased the Islanders most of the first period, getting hemmed in their zone.... Read the full article

Evan Rodrigues moved up to the top line Thursday. ©2018, Michline Veluvolu, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Evan Rodrigues back beside college linemate Jack Eichel

BUFFALO – Three years ago, Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues formed perhaps college hockey’s best duo, piling up points during Boston University’s run to the national championship game.

Eichel won the Hobey Baker Award as a freshman. Meanwhile, Rodrigues enjoyed a monster senior season, compiling 61 points in 41 games.

“We kind of knew where each other were all over the ice,” Rodrigues said Thursday prior to scoring his first goal in 22 games. “We ... Read the full article

Rasmus Ristolainen played a season-high 32 minutes, 39 seconds on Tuesday. ©2018, Michline Veluvolu, Olean Times Herald

Sabres want Rasmus Ristolainen to play fewer minutes

BUFFALO – For years, Sabres coaches have said they want to trim Rasmus Ristolainen’s ice time. For years, the workhorse Finnish defenseman has kept skating big minutes.

Of course, those coaches – first Dan Bylsma and now Phil Housley – haven’t had many options beyond Ristolainen. Bad teams usually don’t possess much defense depth.

An injury or a struggling defenseman means the Sabres must lean on Ristolainen, 23, even more.

Thanks to Jake McCabe’s ... Read the full article

Jake McCabe (left) muscles past Boston's Noel Acciari on Dec. 19. ©2018, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Thumb surgery to sideline Sabres’ Jake McCabe weeks

BUFFALO – With Jake McCabe out three to four weeks after undergoing thumb surgery today and Rasmus Ristolainen struggling, the Sabres’ defense corps will look much different tonight against the New York Islanders.

Casey Nelson, a recent recall quickly earning coach Phil Housley’s trust, will play with Marco Scandella, Ristolainen’s partner much of the season on the No. 1 pair. Ristolainen, meanwhile, will move back and skate with Nathan Beaulieu.... Read the full article

Robin Lehner watches the puck through snow Jan. 30. ©2018, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Sabres goalie Robin Lehner could be attractive option for contender

BUFFALO – Forget about struggling winger Evander Kane, the asset that could fetch the Sabres the greatest return before the upcoming trade deadline is goalie Robin Lehner.

Kane has been struggling for months, producing just four goals over a 32-game span, including zero in the past 13 contests. His value has dropped dramatically.

Lehner, meanwhile, has been tending some strong goal for the hapless Sabres, who have lost four straight home games. In ... Read the full article

Jason Pominville played his first game with the Sabres since April 2, 2013 on Thursday. ©2017, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Jason Pominville still producing offense at 34

BUFFALO – At first glance, it appears Sabres winger Jason Pominville has been declining since hitting the prestigious 30-goal mark four years ago.

Statistical drops are usually inevitable as players progress into their 30s, and Pominville, 34, has experienced one, failing to reach 20 goals or 60 points the last three seasons.

In his first eight NHL seasons of 70 or more games, Pominville averaged 26 goals and 64 points. In the last two campaigns, ... Read the full article