The Eichel Era

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Pittsburgh Penguins

Pascal Dupuis (9) celebrates Ben Lovejoy's goal againt Sabres goalie Chad Johnson on Thursday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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PITTSBURGH – A year or two ago, as the Buffalo Sabres rebuilt their lineup from the ground up, a game like their exciting 4-3 loss to the Penguins on Thursday would’ve turned into an utter annihilation.

But against a team that usually destroys them, the Sabres roared back from an early 2-0 deficit inside the Consol Energy Center, their personal house of horrors, tying it before the first period ended.

When the Penguins went up two goals again late, the Sabres pumped …

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Mike Weber played his 10th game in Pittsburgh on Thursday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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PITTSBURGH – By now, after years and years of getting scratched, gritty veteran Mike Weber knows sitting out occasionally accompanies his role as the Buffalo Sabres’ sixth or seventh defenseman.

“You never want to come out,” Weber said Thursday, “so I understand it’s kind of unfortunately built into my role for reasons unknown. … I just continue to come to the rink determined to work hard and be a good teammate, and when I get my opportunities, take full advantage of …

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Daniel Sprong had an impressive training camp. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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PITTSBURGH – A few years back, when Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel played in summer hockey tournaments, spectators would flock to whichever rink had the talented youngster destined for the NHL.

They weren’t looking for Eichel, the second overall pick in June.

Instead, they wanted to see Daniel Sprong, a slick winger the Penguins drafted 46th overall.

“When we were young, he was, like, unbelievable, best player in all those summer tournaments,” Eichel said this morning inside the Consol Energy Center. “To play …

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Mike Weber will return tonight. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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PITTSBURGH – Just how lopsided did contests between the Penguins and the Sabres become as Buffalo infamously fielded a less-than-stellar lineup for two seasons?

Well, the Penguins have outscored the Sabres 25-3 in their six straight victories against them!

Last year, they throttled the Sabres 5-0, 6-1 and 2-0. Yes, the Sabres scored once in 180 minutes of hockey.

The Sabres haven’t beaten the Penguins since a 4-2 triumph here April 23, 2013.

These days, the Sabres are fielding a strong lineup filled with …

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Dan Bylsma took over the Sabres on May 28. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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PITTSBURGH – There are no hard feelings, Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. For five and a half seasons, he enjoyed a heck of a ride leading the Penguins, winning a Stanley Cup just months after taking over the job in 2009.

That they let him twist in the wind at the end of another disappointing season, refusing to fire him for three weeks after letting general manager Ray Shero go, doesn’t matter.

“I don’t think there needs to be any reconciliation,” …

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Sabres goalie Chad Johnson pokes the puck away from Toronto's Nick Spaling on Oct. 21. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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PITTSBURGH – Buffalo Sabres goalie Chad Johnson embraces a simple philosophy following poor outings: Don’t panic, just stick with it.

“I think when you start sitting down and being like, ‘OK, I got to change this, change that, get out here and do this,’ now you’re overthinking instead of saying it was one of those days,” Johnson said Wednesday inside the Consol Energy Center.

Johnson, 29, experienced one of those days Friday, looking shaky in the Sabres’ ugly 7-2 loss to Montreal. …

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Dan Bylsma won the 2009 Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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PITTSBURGH – There are no hard feelings, Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. For five and a half years, he enjoyed a heck of a ride coaching the Penguins, winning a Stanley Cup in 2009.

That they let him twist in the wind at the end, refusing to fire him before eventually letting him go, doesn’t matter.

“I don’t think there needs to be any reconciliation,” Bylsma said this afternoon inside the Consol Energy Center. “I got the opportunity to coach a …

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Former Sabres defenseman Philippe Boucher watched most of Pittsburgh's 2009 run to the Stanley Cup. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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The two friends met again under unusual circumstances.

It was February 2009, and Dan Bylsma, a 38-year-old rookie coach, was beginning the arduous task of replacing Michel Therrien and saving the sinking Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup hopes. His oldest defenseman, 36-year-old Philippe Boucher, was injured and months away from retirement.

A decade earlier, as Los Angeles Kings teammates, the two had grown close. Boucher greatly respected Bylsma, who carved out a solid career as a journeyman checker after starting out in the …

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The Sabres gave the Penguins a third-round pick for Dan Bylsma. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The 2016 third-round pick the Sabres sent the Pittsburgh Penguins as compensation for coach Dan Bylsma briefly held up the team officially announcing the deal Thursday.

What happened?

General manager Tim Murray said assistant GM Mark Jakubowski alerted him the Sabres wouldn’t have the necessary picks to pursue restricted free agents with an offer sheet if they gave the Penguins their own selection. Teams must send their own picks as compensation if the other club doesn’t match an offer. The …

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From left, Sabres general manager Tim Murray, coach Dan Bylsma and owner Terry Pegula hold up a No. 15 Bylsma jersey Thursday. ©2015, Margaret Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

BUFFALO – There was a time before the Sabres hired Dan Bylsma on Thursday that the coach and general manager Tim Murray both represented the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Back in the early 2000s, as Bylsma finished up his journeyman playing career, Murray was the team’s director of player personnel.

“I complained about him a lot,” Murray cracked Thursday during a news conference to introduce Bylsma as the Sabres’ 17th coach in franchise history. “That’s about all I remember.”

Given their different roles, the …

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