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Stafford

Brian Flynn steals the puck from Toronto goalie James Reimer on Saturday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – For one night at least, the First Niagara Center felt like the old days. A raucous capacity crowd of 19,070 fans roared from start to finish Saturday. The Sabres buzzed up and down the ice all night against the hated Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring goals and creating chance after chance.

The Sabres’ rollicking 6-2 win, just their second regulation triumph this season and first at home, was wildly entertaining, high-octane hockey.

Up in the Ted Darling Memorial Press Box, legendary …

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Drew Stafford has a team-high 10 points. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Drew Stafford figured what the heck, he had nothing to lose by offering his services at center. The Sabres winger had played the position in high school.

So Stafford recently told coach Ted Nolan he would move if the reeling Sabres wanted to experiment.

“I wanted to let him know I’m comfortable with whatever he throws at myself or whoever I end up with,” Stafford said Friday inside the First Niagara Center. “I want him to know I want to …

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Rasmus Ristolainen practices Monday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – When you’re struggling and searching for anything to ignite the team, you experiment. So with nothing to lose, Sabres coach Ted Nolan paired Rasmus Ristolainen, 20, and rookie Nikita Zadorov, 19, together last game.

The defensemen became the Sabres’ top tandem in Saturday’s ugly 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh, each skating more than 20 minutes, more than Tyler Myers. Zadorov wasn’t on the ice for any goals against.

“If you look at both of them, one’s more on the defensive side …

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Tyler Ennis has been a center for about a year. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Tyler Ennis is often the Sabres’ only offensive threat. So why did coach Ted Nolan switch the speedster from center to right wing beside Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson today?

You try everything when you only have three wins and 18 goals in 16 games. Ennis has a team-high four goals.

“When you run into obstacles, you don’t stop and quit, and you got to find a way to get over around it or through it,” Nolan said this afternoon …

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Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth made 49 saves Friday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Fifteen games into another trying season, goaltending has been the Sabres’ only constant each night.

Despite some wretched efforts and an anemic offense on pace to be the worst in NHL history, Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth have kept the Sabres in almost every contest, stopping a barrage of shots.

On Friday, the Sabres laid another egg, allowing the hapless Edmonton Oilers to pump a season-high 52 shots on Neuvirth.

“Fifty-two, that’s crazy,” Neuvirth said following the Sabres’ 3-2 loss before …

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Ted Nolan calls shootouts a "skills competition." ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Ted Nolan refers to the shootout as a “skills competition.” So, the Sabres coach doesn’t like it then?

“Ehhh, I’m not a big fan of it,” Nolan said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center. “But it’s entertaining for the fans. The game, I like to declare a winner. It’s kind of like horseshoes or grenades, everything’s close, everybody’s fair. But I think in a game you should have one winner.”

The Sabres lost a 2-1 shootout to Montreal on …

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Sabres captain Brian Gionta (12) creates traffic in front of Montreal goalie Dustin Tokarski and defenseman Tom Gilbert. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Let’s say it was a busy day at work Wednesday, and when you sat down to watch the Sabres play the Montreal Canadiens, you dozed off until, oh, about 9:30 p.m.

You wouldn’t have missed anything notable.

The Sabres’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens before 17,837 fans inside the First Niagara Center was a real snoozer for 40 minutes.

Still, that’s the kind of effort the Sabres, 2-2-2 in their last six games, needed.

“The foundation we want to create …

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Boston's David Krejci is sandwiched between the Sabres' Tyler Myers (57) and Cody McCormick (8). ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – For about 18 minutes of Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins, it appeared the reeling Sabres would steal a win from a superior opponent.

Yes, the Bruins kept pumping shots on goalie Jhonas Enroth, but the Sabres limited their prime scoring chances. The Sabres’ anemic offense, meanwhile, scored two goals for only the fourth time this season, helping them take a rare lead.

Their first regulation win inside the First Niagara Center since Feb. 28 was within grasp.

Then, …

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Brian Gionta has zero goals this season. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The anger was evident throughout the Sabres’ tense 90-minute practice Wednesday inside the First Niagara Center.

At one point, coach Ted Nolan, whose reeling 2-8 team was demolished 4-0 in Toronto hours earlier, yelled, “Wake the (expletive) up!” Players exchanged words and shouted in frustration. Captain Brian Gionta banged his stick on the glass and demolished it on the bench.

Nolan said the “10-game grace period” he gives his team each season has ended.

“You give them a little bit of …

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Cody Hodgson has one goal this season. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Make no mistake, Cody Hodgson, the Sabres’ leading scorer last season, is the new right winger on the fourth line beside center Sam Reinhart and Nick Deslauriers.

“Yeah, he’s on the fourth line,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said curtly this afternoon.

Hodgson could be moved to the press box next.

“He’s pretty close there, too,” Nolan said.

Hodgson, like just about every Sabres forward, has struggled this season, compiling one goal, two points and a minus-7 rating in 10 contests.

The 24-year-old said …

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