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Toronto Maple Leafs

Sabres goalie Robin Lehner tracks the puck in front of Toronto's Auston Matthews on Tuesday. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – Buffalo Sabres goalie Robin Lehner was livid, looking for someone or something to take his anger out on following a wretched 10-minute stretch.

So after getting yanked from Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Swede yelled at his own bench as he skated off the ice. Lehner then slammed his mask to the ground, looked down the bench and threw his glove off.

The Sabres have a lot of demoralizing losses this trying season. …

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Jack Eichel (left) battles Auston Matthews on Tuesday. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – The Maple Leafs, like the Buffalo Sabres of a year ago, had to improve this season because 30th place was no longer their target.

After bottoming out on purpose, the Leafs added first overall pick Auston Matthews to their large stable of young talent. They also have Mike Babcock, arguably the NHL’s best coach.

Few, however, expected the upstart Leafs would be this good this soon. After Tuesday’s Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Sabres, their ninth victory in …

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Taylor Fedun has scored two NHL goals. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – On a delayed penalty early in Monday afternoon’s 4-1 win, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Taylor Fedun thought he had scored his third NHL goal.

The puck went in the net, the horn sounded and the crowd cheered. The officials, however, had blown the play dead when Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen made a quick save.

No goal.

“I thought it was just a rebound off the goalie,” Fedun said this afternoon inside the Air Canada Centre. “But I guess they ruled when he …

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Jack Eichel (right) has 10 goals and 17 points in 22 games this season. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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TORONTO – The Maple Leafs, like the Buffalo Sabres of a year ago, had to improve this season because 30th place was no longer their target.

After bottoming out on purpose, the Leafs added first overall pick Auston Matthews to their large stable of young talent. They also have Mike Babcock, arguably the NHL’s best coach.

Few, however, expected the upstart Leafs would be this good this soon. Right now, having won eight of the last 10 games, they’ve vaulted up the …

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Sabres goalie Robin Lehner stops Toronto's Leo Komarov on Thursday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – With just under 12 minutes left and Toronto clinging to a one-goal lead, the Sabres, as they consistently did throughout Thursday’s 2-1 loss, pumped a string of shots on Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen in close.

After Andersen denied Sam Reinhart, Tyler Ennis backhanded a shot on net, grabbed his own rebound and released a quick wrist shot through traffic from the slot.

When Andersen’s quick left glove hand snared the puck, Ennis, who rarely showcases much emotion, looked up …

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Jhonas Enroth signed a one-year contract with Toronto in August. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – This city, Jhonas Enroth said, will always “have a soft spot in my heart.” The Swede grew up with the Sabres, often performing like the team’s goalie of the future during his 118-game run here.

But almost two years after his last appearance with the Sabres, “the feeling is starting to cool down a little bit,” Enroth said Thursday prior to the Sabres’ 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs are Enroth’s third team since the Sabres traded …

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Mike Babcock watched the World Series on Thursday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Mike Babcock, admittedly, is “not a huge baseball fan.” Still, the Toronto Maple Leafs coach couldn’t help but watch Game 7 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians late Thursday night and early this morning.

The actual game, a classic that Chicago won 8-7 in 10 innings, didn’t wow Babcock as much as the emotions and scenes in and around the ballpark.

“What a spectacular thing for a city,” Babcock said this morning inside KeyBank Center. …

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Zach Bogosian had been playing more than 20 minutes a night. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – As a college freshman three years ago, sitting as a healthy scratch for weeks burned rookie Sabres defenseman Casey Nelson.

“It shut me down in college,” said Nelson, who will play his first NHL game since the opener tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs inside KeyBank Center.

Eventually, Nelson, 24, developed a different attitude – “You kind of grow up a little,” he said – and earned regular duty.

That experience in 2013 helped prep Nelson for the last three weeks. …

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Auston Matthews speaks at the NHL Combine last year in Buffalo. ©2016, Margaret Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Auston Matthews first experienced the heated rivalry between the Sabres and Maple Leafs here at the NHL Draft, when the Toronto contingency wildly cheered the first overall pick and the hometown fans mercilessly booed their enemy.

“It’s a lot of booing,” Matthews told reporters Wednesday in Toronto after the Leafs prepared for tonight’s game inside KeyBank Center, the rookie’s first appearance here since getting selected June 24.

Expect another loud, bipartisan atmosphere throughout Toronto’s first visit with Matthews, who, thanks …

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Casey Nelson played seven NHL games last season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The blue line has been set for three months. When Dmitry Kulikov arrived via a trade at the NHL Draft, the Sabres had their sixth and final piece, a physical, puck-moving defenseman capable of playing top-pair minutes.

So barring an injury, a Rasmus Ristolainen contract problem or a very impressive training camp from a depth defender, the Sabres have their opening-night lineup: Kulikov, Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Cody Franson, Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe.

But what about that seventh defense spot? …

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