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Turnbull
Patrick Kaleta has never shied away from contact. ©2012, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Three years for a rugged, injury-prone winger who’s averaged only 55 games during his four full NHL seasons. Why did the Sabres give Patrick Kaleta, a 26-year-old short on durability, such a long contract?

The team sees growth and maturity seeping into Kaleta’s game. He’s started reigning in the ultra-aggressive, often reckless style he showcased for years.

The Angola native played a career-high 63 contests last season, eight more than his previous best. He earned regular action as a penalty …

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©2012
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Last month, Steve Ott and Mike Weber heard a rumor Ott could be joining his close friend with the Sabres. The two laughed, and then resumed working out together at the gym.

The mere thought of Ott coming to Buffalo resonated, however. The gritty forward was cognizant the Dallas Stars might be looking to deal him.

“Could you imagine?” the friends asked each other.

On July 2, about two weeks later, Ott missed a call from Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk …

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The Sabres acquired Christian Ehrhoff's rights before free agency started last year. ©2012, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In this new era, nothing may be off limits for the Sabres during free agency. A year ago, owner Terry Pegula spent $67 million on two players in his first foray into the market, showcasing an aggressiveness never seen in these parts.

The Sabres wheeled and dealed, jumping the gun, acquiring Christian Ehrhoff’s rights and awarding the coveted defenseman a 10-year, $40 million contract. Then they gave winger Ville Leino a six-year, $27 million deal to be a top …

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©2012
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – With winger Patrick Kaleta back from his three-absence – he’s wearing a cast on his right hand and reportedly has a broken thumb – the Sabres have returned Travis Turnbull to Rochester.

The rookie center scored his first NHL goal and fought once subbing for the agitator.

Kaleta, meanwhile, played only his 58th game this season Tuesday in Washington.

“It’s exciting,” Kaleta told reporters in Washington. “I honestly don’t really like sitting out and watching my teammates. I take it pretty …

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Alex Ovechkin's Capitals have 84 points. ©2012, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – In reality, it’s a single game for the Sabres, one of 82 regular-season contests. Tonight’s anticipated eight-versus-nine tilt in Washington is potentially worth two points for them, just like any other game.

If the Sabres win, break their tie with the Capitals (84 points) and move into eighth place, they could quickly lose the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot again. Don’t forget, they stayed there less than a day after grabbing it Saturday.

Should they fall a point or two …

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©2012
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – About 23 minutes into the Sabres’ 4-1 triumph Friday, rookie Travis Turnbull grabbed a loose puck off a faceoff, skated out of the zone and began creating a memorable first NHL goal inside New York’s historic Madison Square Garden.

When Turnbull reached the red line, he shot the puck in and zoomed by the Rangers’ Stu Bickel. The center then briefly retrieved his dump-in, throwing the puck out from behind the net as Bickel hit him.

The puck then hit …

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©2012
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Travis Turnbull said he never stopped believing he’d crack the NHL someday. Still, the odds looked stacked against the undrafted center. The Sabres possess a slew of talented youngsters and high-priced veterans in Rochester.

The 25-year-old Turnbull’s name has rarely popped up as a prospect since he was inked out of the University of Michigan in 2009.

The Sabres had already summoned six forwards from the AHL this season when Turnbull’s phone rang Tuesday night. It was Rochester coach Ron …

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Marcus Foligno already has five goals and seven points just six games into his career. ©2012, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – NHL success can be fleeting, especially for 20-year-olds thrown headfirst into a ferocious postseason race. Today’s hero can quickly become overwhelmed the next day.

With five goals and seven points just six games into his career, winger Marcus Foligno’s already enjoying one of the greatest rookie stretches in the Sabres’ 41-year history.

Only Phil Housley (nine points, 1982-83) and Ray Sheppard (seven, 1987-88) have tallied seven or more points in their first six contests, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I …

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