The Eichel Era

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Ottawa Senators

Jack Eichel celebrates his first NHL goal. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – For the first two periods of his NHL debut, Jack Eichel blended in among the other 10 skaters on the ice. The slick Sabres center looked like, well, a rookie playing against superior competition.

Then suddenly, like he somehow matured over a brief intermission, Eichel, 18, morphed into the best player on the ice late in the Sabres’ 3-1 opening-night loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

“You didn’t see him skate in the first two periods,” Sabres coach Dan …

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Carlo Colaiacovo wants the Sabres to trust every defender. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – With zero stars, minute-munchers or big scorers on their blue line right now, the Sabres plan to utilize a defense by committee early this season.

So expect to see ice time spread out evenly. Trying to distinguish between the first and third pairs might be tough.

“We’re going to rely on all six guys,” defenseman Josh Gorges said Thursday prior to the Sabres’ 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. “Some nights you’re going to play more depending on the situation …

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Robin Lehner struggled during the preseason. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – As a Swedish import, Sabres newcomer Robin Lehner isn’t a big football fan. But after arriving here in August, the goalie started following the Buffalo Bills a little bit.

“A lot of people talk about their defense and how good their defense and stuff are, but people start questioning the quarterback a little bit,” Lehner said this morning prior to the season opener. “I feel like I’m a little bit in the same position.”

The Sabres dramatically overhauled their roster …

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Jack Eichel prefers to talk about the team instead of himself. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Rookie Jack Eichel felt the anticipation building for his NHL debut long before the Sabres drafted him second overall 104 days ago. The center knows the excited Buffalo fans see him as the future of the franchise.

But to Eichel, 18, the new chapter the revamped Sabres will begin tonight against the Ottawa Senators, the so-called “Eichel Era,” is about much more than one player.

“We have a pretty young team,” Eichel said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of young guys …

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Robin Lehner stops a shot from Max McCormick on Wednesday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – A week ago, Sabres newcomer Evander Kane, a winger who has hit the 30-goal mark once in his six-year career, boldly said he wants score 40 or 50 times this season.

Was it brash? You bet. But Kane backed up his words Wednesday, starting his Sabres career splendidly by scoring twice in their 5-2 exhibition loss to the Ottawa Senators before an announced crowd of 17,298 fans inside the First Niagara Center.

“It gets you feeling good and gets the …

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Brendan Guhle will play his second preseason game tonight. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – The odds, of course, are still very low Brendan Guhle will stick around. In the coming days, the Sabres will likely send the defense prospect, the 51st pick in June, back to his junior club following an impressive training camp.

But Sabres coach Dan Bylsma left the door open just a crack for the 18-year-old.

“At least through one exhibition game and practice so far, he’s shown the ability that he could possibly do it, he could possibly play back …

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Tyler Ennis (63) fends off Justin Kea on Friday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
2

BUFFALO – Their paths had never crossed until five months ago, when Team Canada chose Sabres winger Tyler Ennis and center Ryan O’Reilly to represent its world championship squad in the Czech Republic.

For three weeks, as the Canadians roared to a gold medal, O’Reilly’s many talents, the little details in his game, wowed Ennis. By the end of the tournament, they had become good friends.

When Ennis got home, he spoke to Tim Murray. As a young veteran assuming a bigger …

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Robin Lehner has a history with Tim Murray. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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SUNRISE, Fla. – Parting with the 21st pick in a deep NHL Draft wasn’t easy for Tim Murray. With the Buffalo Sabres locked into picking Jack Eichel second overall Friday, the general manager recently told his scouts to focus on the team’s other first-round pick.

Murray wanted them to go deep and dig into those prospects.

But the Sabres desperately needed a goalie for next season. Murray had choices. Plenty of established ones – perhaps five or six – are available this …

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Robin Lehner suffered a concussion last season. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Tim Murray had choices. Plenty of established goalies – perhaps five or six – are available this summer. But the general manager wanted Robin Lehner to fill the Buffalo Sabres’ vacancy.

“Robin was our target,” Murray said this morning after acquiring the 23-year-old from the Ottawa Senators. “He was the No. 1 goalie available from our estimation.”

Murray watched Lehner quickly rise through Ottawa’s organization when he served in the Senators’ front office. The Swede only played one …

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Robin Lehner has played 86 NHL games. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Buffalo Sabres have a new goalie.

The rebuilding team acquired Robin Lehner and center David Legwand from the Ottawa Senators this morning for the 21st pick in tonight’s NHL Draft.

The trade is the first between Sabres general manager Tim Murray and his uncle and counterpart, Bryan Murray.

The 23-year-old Lehner is 30-36-13 with a 2.88 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 86 games. The emergence of Andrew Hammond late last year made the Swede expendable.

The …

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