C.J. Smith enjoyed a big junior season. ©2017, UMass Lowell

Commitment to defense helped C.J. Smith reach Sabres

BUFFALO – After C.J. Smith led UMass Lowell in goal scoring for the third consecutive season, River Hawks coach Norm Bazin knew his star forward would have opportunities to turn pro.

Smith, who signed a two-year contract with the Sabres on Thursday, enjoyed a huge 2016-17 campaign, scoring 23 goals and 51 points in only 41 games.

But something besides Smith’s scoring prowess helped him morph from an undrafted youngster into an NHL prospect ... Read the full article

Thomas Vanek began this season in Detroit. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Former Sabres star Thomas Vanek still moving around NHL

BUFFALO – If you’re counting, former Sabres star Thomas Vanek just joined his fifth team – yes, the number’s really that high – since leaving town early in 2013-14.

The Panthers acquired Vanek, 33, as a rental from the Detroit Red Wings prior to the trade deadline, making Florida the latest stop in what has become a crazy four seasons.

After nine seasons here, the Austrian has morphed into the NHL’s most well-traveled star, also ... Read the full article

Marcus Foligno (left) and Josh Gorges celebrate Foligno's empty-net goal Thursday. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres shake off threat, beat Coyotes

BUFFALO – Following Thursday’s 6-3 win, a contest tighter than the score might indicate, winger Evander Kane bluntly assessed the current edition of the Arizona Coyotes, a hapless outfit the Sabres lost to earlier this week.

“They’re not a very good hockey team,” said Kane, who scored the winning goal 14:24 into the third period. “Let’s be real here.”

Well, they were good enough to beat the Sabres five days ago.

Despite ranking 29th overall, ... Read the full article

Evander Kane has enjoyed a terrific three-month stretch. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Slumping Sabres have assets to trade

BUFFALO – So what should the Sabres sell off before Wednesday’s trade deadline? After their most wrenching weekend in years, they can’t possibly be buyers, right?

Brutal road losses to the hapless Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes kicked them down the standings, effectively eliminating them from contention with 20 games left.

Desperate for wins, the Sabres couldn’t handle the NHL’s two worst teams. Think about that. Against the Coyotes, they frittered away a 2-0 third-period ... Read the full article

Nick Deslauriers has zero points in 22 games this season. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Nick Deslauriers seeing less action

BUFFALO – Chat with Nick Deslauriers for a few minutes, and if the subject turns to fighting, the affable Sabres winger usually perks up.

Deslauriers, 25, relishes his job as the Sabres’ chief protector. In his 196-game NHL career, he has 15 fights and 12 goals.

“That’s what I want to bring, just safety for all the guys that are on the ice with me,” Deslauriers said Friday prior to being scratched for the Sabres’ ... Read the full article

Anders Nilsson (31) tries to make a stop Dec. 6. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres goalie Anders Nilsson to start against Red Wings

BUFFALO – Sabres coach Dan Bylsma has no explanation for goalie Anders Nilsson’s wild home and road splits.

Consider the statistics Nilsson, who will start tonight against the Detroit Red Wings, has accumulated in 17 games: on the road, he’s just 2-5-3 with a 3.11 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in nine outings. At KeyBank Center, however, he’s 5-1-1 with a 1.84 and a .947 in seven contests.

“They can be misleading and ... Read the full article

Jack Eichel broke out of his short slump Tuesday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Jack Eichel refreshed for second half after short break

BUFFALO – Long after Sabres center Jack Eichel leaves the rink, his struggles still weigh heavy in his mind.

“I take it home,” Eichel said Wednesday after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s tilt against the Boston Bruins at KeyBank Center.

So naturally, Eichel’s frustration was visible as his career-long five-game pointless streak hit as the Sabres lost four straight contests before their Christmas break.

“You could see it in his body language,” Sabres coach Dan ... Read the full article

Robin Lehner (40) watches the puck Wednesday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres lose to Red Wings in shootout, miss chance to reach .500

BUFFALO – Coach Dan Bylsma heard the words – his Sabres had just missed a chance to hit .500 – and banged the podium out of frustration before a reporter could finish his question.

In a season full of close losses, Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout setback to the Detroit Red Wings might’ve hurt the most. The Sabres couldn’t convert several prime scoring chances throughout the night, including a few in overtime.

The 7-8-5 Sabres, a team ... Read the full article

Steve Ott and Thomas Vanek are back together in Detroit. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Former Sabres Steve Ott, Thomas Vanek happy with Red Wings

BUFFALO – Barely three years ago, Steve Ott and Thomas Vanek co-captained the Sabres through one of the roughest months in franchise history, October 2013, before leaving town.

Vanek, who detested the team’s rebuild, went first, getting dished to the New York Islanders just weeks into the season. The Sabres traded Ott, who wanted to stay, to the St. Louis Blues months later.

These days, they’re two newcomers charged with helping the Detroit ... Read the full article

Kyle Okposo was sold on Buffalo early. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Kyle Okposo sees Stanley Cup in Sabres’ future

BUFFALO – The conversation lasted maybe 15 minutes. General manager Tim Murray wanted to gauge Kyle Okposo’s interest, and the free agent wanted to hear what the Sabres could offer him.

When Murray began telling him how underrated the city is, Okposo stopped him and said he knows all about Buffalo and likes it. The nine-year veteran wanted to learn more about the organization.

So after Murray talked about the Sabres and the bright future ... Read the full article