15 games left

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Toronto Maple Leafs

Anders Lindback made 31 saves Wednesday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – Let’s start with some positives from the Buffalo Sabres’ 4-3 defeat to the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, a game in which they frittered away a late lead and lost in the shootout.

– For one of the few times all season, their No. 1 line performed like, well, a top trio. Center Johan Larsson and wingers Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis all scored three points, the first time three Sabres have compiled three points in a game since Jan. …

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Johan Larsson (left) chats with assistant coach Bryan Trottier earlier this month. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – Johan Larsson’s new assignment really hit him when he lined up for a faceoff Saturday against Washington Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom, the NHL’s best playmaker and a fellow Swede.

Larsson, the Buffalo Sabres’ new No. 1 center, has only three goals and 11 points in 53 NHL games. After scoring a goal and two assists in Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs – his first-ever three-point outing – the 22-year-old has seven points this season.

Backstrom, a former …

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Phil Varone celebrates his first NHL goal last season. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – Buffalo Sabres center Phil Varone didn’t want to leave the Air Canada Centre ice this afternoon. The native of nearby Vaughn, Ontario, a town about 30 minutes north of here, wanted to soak everything in prior to his first game against the Maple Leafs.

“I was just saying I think this is one rink that you come into and you’re like, ‘I’m in the NHL,’” Varone said after leaving the ice after most of his teammates.

Tonight will be a …

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The Sabres acquired Jerry D'Amigo from Columbus on Dec. 16. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – Jerry D’Amigo understands an opportunity like the one he’s enjoying with the Buffalo Sabres doesn’t materialize very often.

Injuries and trades have opened up a regular spot on the fourth line for the 24-year-old, a hardworking winger with 25 games of NHL experience. The rebuilding Sabres are the Binghamton native’s third organization since July.

The final 16 games could be D’Amigo’s best – and last – chance to prove he deserves regular NHL duty.

“I think you get only a few …

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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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Tyler Ennis had a goal and three points Sunday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Tyler Ennis still remembers every little detail of Nov. 14, 2009, the day the slick Sabres winger made his NHL debut.

When Portland Pirates coach Kevin Dineen told Ennis the Sabres could recall him for a game in Philadelphia that night, the youngster left the rink – “It was like a 30-minute drive,” he said – and went home.

He needed to eat, so he “picked up a quick Subway sandwich.”

Ennis then packed. Dineen called and said the Sabres needed …

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Patrick Kaleta made his season debut Thursday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Patrick Kaleta’s home season debut will have to wait. Sabres coach Ted Nolan will scratch the winger for tonight’s tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs inside the First Niagara Center.

The Angola native played his first NHL game since Oct. 10, 2013 on Thursday, a 6-3 loss in Minnesota.

Kaleta tore his ACL almost a year ago in the AHL and took a puck to the face Sept. 28. Nolan thinks after playing eight minutes, six seconds against the speedy …

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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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Rick Jeanneret talks last year in Rochester. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – To winger Patrick Kaleta, who grew up in nearby Angola listening to Rick Jeanneret call games, the greatest perk of playing for the Sabres isn’t money or prestige.

“One of the best, if not the best thing about being a Sabre is hearing your name called by Rick Jeanneret,” Kaleta said Friday inside the First Niagara Center. “I still get chills listening to some of stuff on YouTube.”

So whenever Kaleta needs to “get pumped up,” he listens to the …

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Michal Neuvirth kept the Sabres in Tuesday's game. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – It turns out that nice win three days earlier was an anomaly. The hapless Buffalo Sabres reverted back into a laughingstock in Tuesday’s embarrassing 4-0 loss to the Maple Leafs, getting thoroughly dominated throughout their eighth loss in 10 tries this season.

How ugly was Buffalo’s effort?

The Sabres, three weeks into their 44th season, sprinkled a franchise-low 10 shots on Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier. The Leafs, meanwhile, pumped 37 shots on Sabres netminder Michal Neuvirth.

“I don’t know who we …

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