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Toronto Maple Leafs

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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Tyler Ennis looked strong Tuesday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In his first game in almost nine months Tuesday, slick Sabres winger Tyler Ennis skated aggressively, proving the season-ending concussion he suffered Dec. 30 wasn’t lingering in his mind.

“I like the way he skated,” coach Dan Bylsma said after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. “He played with some urgency, he played with some jam. In the third period, he drew the penalty with his skating.

“I thought it was a pretty good …

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William Nylander (left) had some fun interviewing his brother, Alexander, before the NHL Draft in June. ©2016, Margaret Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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ST. CATHARINES, Ontario – Growing up, Buffalo Sabres prospect Alexander Nylander and his brother, William, a Toronto Maple Leafs youngster, were ultra-competitive in whatever game or sport they played.

So, despite being very close, the Nylanders would occasionally get a little emotional.

“We fought a lot, there was a lot when we were playing knee hockey, shinny,” an excited Alexander Nylander said Thursday morning prior to the Sabres’ 1-0 preseason shootout win, their first-ever meeting at any level of hockey. “We always …

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William Nylander (left) interviews his brother, Alexander, before the NHL Draft in June. ©2016, Margaret Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Growing up, Sabres prospect Alexander Nylander and his brother, William, a Toronto Maple Leafs youngster, were ultra-competitive in whatever game or sport they played.

So, despite being very close, the Nylanders would occasionally get a little emotional.

“We fought a lot, there was a lot when we were playing knee hockey, shinny,” Alexander Nylander said this morning inside KeyBank Center. “We always came clean after it and were best buddies again.”

Don’t expect to see the Nylanders pummel each other tonight …

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Jack Eichel enjoyed a fine rookie season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Jack Eichel spoke with conviction rarely heard from teenage athletes. After growing together for a season, the talented center said, the Sabres possess the belief and talent to make the playoffs.

“Anything less than that,” Eichel said Wednesday, “is an underachievement this year for us.”

Eichel, 19, just returned from a three-week gig at the World Cup of Hockey. His time with Team North America, a rollicking squad comprised of elite 23-and-under talent, has clearly energized the young star as …

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