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New York Rangers

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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Adam Clendening returned to the lineup Thursday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – There are, of course, good and bad things about the nomadic hockey life Adam Clendening has experienced for three seasons, the New York Rangers defenseman said.

On one hand, the Wheatfield native has seen six NHL cities and met hundreds of teammates. On the other hand, five years into his pro career, Clendening, 24, has never lasted longer than 20 games in one spot.

“You always want to find a home and be able to play every night,” Clendening, who …

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Jimmy Vesey played four years in the NCAA. ©2016, Gil Talbot, Harvard Athletics
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – New York Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey isn’t sure how Sabres fans will react to him tonight.

“I’m not really worried about that,” Vesey said this afternoon inside KeyBank Center. “At the end of the day, I made one decision. It might’ve (ticked) some people off. It was never my intention.”

That decision, of course, was to pass on the signing with the Sabres, who acquired his rights June 20, and become an unrestricted free agent.

Most NCAA players – Vesey played …

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Adam Clendening (44) skates against the Sabres and Matt Moulson Feb. 26, 2015 as a member of Vancouver. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – There are, of course, good and bad things about the nomadic hockey life Adam Clendening has experienced for three seasons, the New York Rangers defenseman said.

On one hand, the Wheatfield native has seen six NHL cities and met hundreds of teammates. On the other hand, five years into his pro career, Clendening, 24, has never lasted longer than 20 games in one spot.

“You always want to find a home and be able to play every night,” Clendening, who …

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Robin Lehner was hurt Tuesday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Late in the morning skate, Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, who’s nursing a sore hip and questionable to even dress for tonight’s game, left the ice first.

Did it mean he was ready to play? The first goalie off almost always starts.

No. The Sabres still aren’t sure if Lehner will back up goalie Anders Nilsson tonight against the New York Rangers.

“It feels 90 percent, it’s a little stiff still,” Lehner said inside KeyBank Center. “But, yeah, it feels good.”

Sabres coach …

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Ryan O'Reilly also briefly lost his helmet Nov. 21. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In his eight-year NHL career, Ryan O’Reilly has scored 117 times, so the Sabres center has about every type of goal on his impressive resume.

But after O’Reilly recently lost his helmet in the thick of the action and nearly scored, he started thinking – or, perhaps more appropriately, daydreaming – about getting a goal and celebrating without, as hockey players say, his “bucket.”

“We talked about this like two weeks ago,” O’Reilly told the Times Herald on Tuesday in …

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Jimmy Vesey was a free agent four days. ©2016, Gil Talbot, Harvard Athletics
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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Jimmy Vesey, the Hobey Baker Award winner whose negotiating rights the Buffalo Sabres owned for 57 days, signed a two-year, $1.85 million entry-level contract Friday with the New York Rangers, ending an odd five months in which the college star spurned the Nashville Predators to become a free agent.

Vesey, 23, officially became unrestricted on Tuesday, and, as expected, a slew of teams tried recruiting the high-scoring former Harvard University winger.

In addition to the Rangers, his hometown Boston Bruins, the Chicago …

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Johan Larsson possesses a strong shot. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres’ most consistent and sturdiest line in years – yes, years – is a trio comprised of players who underachieved, struggled offensively and couldn’t stay in the lineup earlier this season.

But these days, center Johan Larsson, left wing Marcus Foligno and right wing Brian Gionta quietly form the Sabres’ steadiest combination.

While the line’s technically the Sabres’ third – the players usually face the opponent’s best in a checking role – it has  created offense and scored timely …

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Jack Eichel (15) upended by the New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh on Tuesday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Robin Lehner spoke calmly and passionately. Of course, the goalie said, he wanted to stay in the Sabres’ 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers instead of getting yanked.

Despite allowing three goals in barely 26 minutes of action Tuesday, the fiery Lehner believes he was playing well enough “to keep fighting to the end and be a part of a turnaround.”

“I’m a competitor,” Lehner said. “I want to stay in there and keep going.”

Lehner never got his chance. …

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Cal O'Reilly has been playing strong minutes. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Don’t think of Cal O’Reilly as a late-season recall the Sabres simply added to fill out the roster for a few weeks.

If O’Reilly keeps producing like he has recently – one goal and three points in four games – the versatile forward could perhaps earn a regular role as a third- or fourth-liner next season.

“I always view the roster as about 32 people,” coach Dan Bylsma said today after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s game against the New …

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