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Toronto Maple Leafs

Matt Ellis celebrates his first goal this season Wednesday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – It was a pretty goal, the type that can bring fans out of their seats before the puck is even in the net. Basically, it was the kind of goal Sabres center Matt Ellis never scores.

In 351 NHL games, Ellis has only 21 goals. The likable veteran hadn’t scored in 33 appearances this season prior to his nifty highlight-reel winner Wednesday in the Sabres’ 4-3 come-from-behind victory against the hapless Toronto Maple Leafs inside the First Niagara Center.

“Putting …

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T.J. Brennan played 21 games with the Sabres. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In the beginning, former Sabres prospect T.J. Brennan followed a normal path to the NHL. The high-scoring defenseman developed four seasons in the AHL before briefly cracking the Sabres two years ago.

Back then, Brennan, who grew up in New Jersey playing lacrosse, didn’t fully understand what it took to make the NHL.

“I’ve always been kind of learn as I go,” Brennan said Wednesday prior to the Sabres’ 4-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs inside the First Niagara …

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Tyler Ennis (63) jostles with Florida's Brian Campbell earlier this season. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – Sometimes, Sabres winger Tyler Ennis said, he has to realize he’s only 5-foot-5 and not a 6-foot-3 behemoth. Trying to thump a larger opponent usually isn’t the best idea.

Ennis, who’s listed at 5-foot-9, went after someone bigger Thursday and paid the price, suffering an upper-body injury. The Sabres’ top offensive threat missed two games but will return tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Maybe I got to tone down the hits,” Ennis said this morning inside the First Niagara …

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Sabres goalie Anders Lindback tries to stop New Jersey's Steve Bernier (18) with Andre Benoit's (61) help March 20. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
2

BUFFALO – Just like that, 29th place – a precarious spot that wouldn’t guarantee the Sabres either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, the mega-draft prospects they covet – is back in play.

Sorry, fans, the race isn’t over yet. The Sabres’ 4-1 victory Monday in Arizona moved them to within four points of the Coyotes, who looked awful throughout the night.

The 30th-place Sabres also have a game in hand, so after tonight’s tilt against the hapless Toronto Maple Leafs inside the …

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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
1

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
1

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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