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Toronto Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews received a lot of attention Friday. ©2016, Margaret Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – This city, the site of the 2016 NHL Scouting Combine and Draft, will always hold a special place in Auston Matthews’ heart.

After the combine concludes today, hockey’s biggest prospect will return in three weeks, and barring a seismic, unexpected turn of events, the Toronto Maple Leafs will select Matthews No. 1 overall June 24 inside the First Niagara Center.

The pinnacle of his young career will always be tied to Buffalo.

The Arizona-born Matthews has enjoyed experiencing Buffalo this week, …

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Auston Matthews is hockey's most coveted prospect. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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The “Shanaplan” worked.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who stripped down their roster this season under the direction of president Brendan Shanahan and finished dead last, won tonight’s NHL Draft Lottery.

The Leafs, who had 20 percent odds for the No. 1 overall pick, will almost certainly use it to select Arizona-raised center Auston Matthews, the prize of this year’s NHL Draft.

The Buffalo Sabres stayed put in the lottery, meaning they’ll select eighth when they host the draft June 24. They had 6 …

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Cal O'Reilly scored twice Thursday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Given Ryan O’Reilly’s wide smile and enthusiastic voice talking about his older brother Cal’s exploits in the Sabres’ 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it almost looked and sounded like he had just enjoyed the game of his life Thursday.

But Ryan O’Reilly was just excited to be a part of the first two-goal outing of Cal’s 141-game NHL career.

That Ryan earned the secondary assist on Cal’s first goal – it was the first time they ever connected …

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Hudson Fasching has been busy doing homework. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – On Wednesday night, hours before Sabres rookie Hudson Fasching had to be at the First Niagara Center to prepare for his fourth NHL game, he was in his hotel room taking a quiz.

Fasching, 20, has kept working toward his entrepreneurial management degree since leaving the University of Minnesota last week following his junior season. He’s taking classes online and is on track to graduate in May.

Three nights earlier, Fasching wrote a one-page paper – it was a case …

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Robin Lehner's season is over. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – If the Sabres were still in the hunt for the postseason, then perhaps goalie Robin Lehner would’ve battled through his ankle injury and kept playing, coach Dan Bylsma said.

“I can’t say that for sure,” Bylsma said this morning. “It might’ve been the case if we were in a different spot in the standings right now and fighting for a playoff spot.”

Instead, Lehner underwent season-ending surgery this week. The Swede, 24, suffered a high right ankle sprain opening night …

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Ryan O'Reilly has 18 goals. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – For almost three months, Ryan O’Reilly compiled the Sabres’ oddest stat line.

On Jan. 8 in Chicago, O’Reilly scored his 17th goal. At that point, halfway through the season, the NHL All-Star was on pace for a career-high 34 goals.

Then, O’Reilly suddenly went dry, enduring a marathon drought before finally scoring short-handed early in Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss in Pittsburgh.

In that odd 24-game run, which was interrupted when a broken foot sidelined him 11 games, O’Reilly accumulated a gaudy …

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Brian Gionta scored the Sabres' only goal Saturday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

TORONTO – If you passed on viewing a meaningless late-season tilt between the Buffalo Sabres and Maple Leafs and opted to watch some college basketball or, well, do anything else Saturday night, you probably made a wise decision.

In a downright wretched effort, the Sabres meekly fell 4-1 to the NHL’s worst team, imploding late inside the Air Canada Centre after starting the third period tied at 1.

“It was pretty embarrassing,” Sabres winger Marcus Foligno said.

Against a lineup more suited to …

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Nick Deslauriers beats Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson on Friday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – As a third- or fourth-liner known more for his fists than his soft hands, gritty Buffalo Sabres winger Nick Deslauriers has endured some long goal droughts.

While the likable Deslauriers scored his career-high sixth goal in Friday’s 3-1 home win against the Ottawa Senators, he has only 12 in his 160-game career. After scoring three times in the first 11 games this season, the former defenseman went 41 appearances before finally scoring again March 3.

“I told him he needs …

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Jack Eichel (15) will miss his first NHL game. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – The flu will force Buffalo Sabres rookie Jack Eichel to miss his first NHL game tonight, coach Dan Bylsma said.

To replace the center against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, the Sabres have recalled rookie winger Dan Catenacci from the Rochester Americans. Cal O’Reilly will move to center, Bylsma said.

Eichel, 19, finished Friday’s 3-1 home win against the Ottawa Senators, recording as assist, his 49th point.

“It didn’t come on until early morning this morning,” Bylsma said inside the Air …

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Sam Reinhart scored the shootout winner Monday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – Call it whatever you want – a tank, a deep rebuild – the Maple Leafs gutted their roster recently, leaving coach Mike Babcock a team filled with unknown neophytes to mold into NHL talent.

The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, have already endured what the Leafs are just beginning: a total overhaul. The Sabres are, theoretically, two years ahead of Toronto.

At this stage, they should exploit a reeling club dressing six rookies. The Sabres did Monday, although it took them more …

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