Zemgus Girgensons was all over the ice last season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

5 storylines to follow during Sabres training camp

BUFFALO – The Sabres team that will convene today for training camp physicals, the official start of the 2016-17 season, isn’t much different from the one that just finished seventh in the Atlantic Division.

Sure, there were some notable summer additions. Winger Kyle Okposo, who signed a seven-year, $42 million contract July 1, was arguably the best free agent available. Dmitri Kulikov gives the Sabres a sturdy veteran to skate beside No. 1 defenseman ... Read the full article

Robin Lehner tries to stop Colorado's Erik Johnson last season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres goalie Robin Lehner on different look, weight loss: ‘New choices, new me’

BUFFALO – At first glance, you might not recognize Robin Lehner. While the 6-foot-5 Sabres goalie wouldn’t give an exact number, he appears to have shed around 40 pounds since April. His hair, which he has often worn long, is closely cropped. His bushy beard is gone.

“I’ve lost a decent amount of weight, got in shape,” Lehner said Monday after skating inside HarborCenter. “I’ve done some life changes. It’s not always going in ... Read the full article

Tom Ward has an impressive high school resume. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres hire Tom Ward as assistant coach; Dan Catenacci re-signed

BUFFALO – The Sabres have hired Tom Ward, a top prep coach who groomed Sidney Crosby, Kyle Okposo and other future NHL players at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, as the final assistant on Dan Bylsma’s staff, the team announced this afternoon.

Ward, 52, spent the last 18 seasons as the head coach of the boys prep team at the Minnesota high school, winning nine USA Hockey National Championships and finishing as runner-up twice.

Shattuck is known for ... Read the full article

Tim Murray won't let himself worry about Jimmy Vesey. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres GM Tim Murray knows Jimmy Vesey could sign elsewhere

BUFFALO – The constant talk about whether former Harvard University star Jimmy Vesey will sign with the Sabres amazes general manager Tim Murray.

No one, of course, has more invested in Vesey than Murray, who traded a third-round pick for the Hobey Baker Award winner’s rights on June 20, a deal he has called a “gamble.”

If Vesey signs, Murray might have a first- or second-line winger to skate beside Jack Eichel or Ryan O’Reilly. ... Read the full article

Kyle Okposo (left) receives his Sabres jersey from general manager Tim Murray on Thursday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Kyle Okposo knows Jimmy Vesey would fit with Sabres

BUFFALO – Shortly after winger Kyle Okposo put on his new No. 21 Sabres jersey and spoke to the media Thursday morning, some of the team’s higher-ups reportedly boarded a charter flight from Prior Aviation bound for Boston.

What was the purpose of their trip? Likely a meeting with winger Jimmy Vesey, 23, the former Harvard University star whose negotiating rights the Sabres acquired June 20.

Vesey seems dead set on becoming an unrestricted ... Read the full article

Kyle Okposo smiles this morning in his new No. 21 jersey. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Kyle Okposo sees similarities in Jack Eichel, John Tavares

BUFFALO – Sabres winger Kyle Okposo was beginning his third pro season when the New York Islanders, fresh off a disastrous campaign, welcomed No. 1 overall pick John Tavares.

Over the years, Okposo witnessed Tavares’ rapid development from a raw prospect into one of the NHL’s premier centers.

Now, seven years later, Okposo has another rare opportunity to watch – and even help – Sabres center Jack Eichel, the No. 2 pick in 2015, become ... Read the full article

Kyle Okposo knew he had to change his approach to hockey. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Kyle Okposo revamped approach after poor season

BUFFALO – Three years ago, after his production plummeted to four goals and 24 points in the lockout-shortened 48-game season, Kyle Okposo started fretting.

Okposo knew he had accomplished some good things in his four seasons with the New York Islanders. Still, after following up a 24-goal campaign with an awful season, he learned he lacked consistency.

So he seriously examined his career.

“I just felt that I was kind of being pushed into a ... Read the full article

Kyle Okposo was sold on Buffalo early. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Kyle Okposo sees Stanley Cup in Sabres’ future

BUFFALO – The conversation lasted maybe 15 minutes. General manager Tim Murray wanted to gauge Kyle Okposo’s interest, and the free agent wanted to hear what the Sabres could offer him.

When Murray began telling him how underrated the city is, Okposo stopped him and said he knows all about Buffalo and likes it. The nine-year veteran wanted to learn more about the organization.

So after Murray talked about the Sabres and the bright future ... Read the full article

Kyle Okposo cashed in early in free agency. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres sign Kyle Okposo to 7-year contract

BUFFALO – Winger Kyle Okposo, arguably the best free agent available, signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Sabres shortly after the market opened this afternoon, according to multiple reports.

The signing is significant. Just 15 months removed from their second consecutive 30th-place finish, the Sabres, who improved 27 points last season, secured a strong talent to play beside centers Jack Eichel or Ryan O’Reilly.

Okposo is coming off a 22-goal, 64-point ... Read the full article