Best wishes to RJ

Archive:
Vanek

Cody Hodgson switched positions late last season. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – A year ago, the thought of Cody Hodgson playing anywhere but center would have seemed absurd.

The Sabres had few viable options down the middle. Tyler Ennis was still bouncing between two forward spots. Zemgus Girgensons was just beginning his NHL career as a winger.

Besides, Hodgson had just signed a six-year, $25.5 million contract extension to be the No. 1 pivot.

But late in the season, following an evaluation period, the team’s new regime mapped out the future. Ennis had …

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Brian Gionta talks about being named captain Tuesday. ©2014, Margaret Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – For five years, Josh Gorges watched Brian Gionta closely. Gionta’s Stanley Cup ring offered him instant credibility in the Montreal dressing room. But Gorges quickly learned why Gionta won a championship.

Gorges noticed the professionalism Gionta exhibited, the strong habits that made him a leader and respected captain.

“I’ve said this all along, when you’re a young guy coming into a team … who do you look to in the room and say, ‘This is who I got to follow …

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Brian Gionta was an alternate captain during the preseason. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Since the Sabres signed Brian Gionta on July 1, the talk, understandably, has centered on the veteran winger’s leadership.

The 35-year-old captained the storied Montreal Canadiens for four seasons. The rebuilding Sabres need someone to wear the ‘C.’ Gionta’s the most qualified candidate.

Sabres coach Ted Nolan said Thursday a new captain would be named soon. The Greece native could be awarded the prestigious letter as soon as Monday.

But in Gionta, who’s entering his 13th NHL season, the Sabres might …

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The Sabres named new captains before last season. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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On Oct. 1, the Buffalo Sabres unveiled their new leadership crew, co-captains Steve Ott and Thomas Vanek and alternate Christian Ehrhoff.

Nine months later, all three are gone.

Vanek was dealt later that month. Ott went in February. Ehrhoff was bought out Sunday.

Looking for a picture that can capture the Sabres’ radical transformation? Look above.

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Florida selected Aleksander Barkov second overall last year. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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PHILADELPHIA – How good are the Buffalo Sabres’ odds of nabbing a franchise talent with the No. 2 pick tonight? Take a look at the list below.

It can be argued the last 15 picks have been strong hits. The list includes 50-goal scorers, perennial NHL All-Stars and even future Hall of Famers.

In their 44-year history, the Sabres have never owned the second pick. Twice they’ve had the No. 1 pick, 1970, when they chose Gilbert Perreault, and 1987, when they …

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Thomas Vanek played 47 games with the New York Islanders before getting traded to Montreal. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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The New York Islanders will be keeping the No. 5 pick in June’s NHL Entry Draft and giving the Buffalo Sabres their first-round selection next year to complete the Thomas Vanek trade, the club announced today.

The Isles had until June 1 to decide.

There had been some speculation the Isles would want to have their 2015 pick for a chance at Connor McDavid, arguably the biggest prospect since Sidney Crosby.

The Sabres now have three 2015 first-round picks. In addition to their …

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The Sabres could draft Sam Reinhart this June. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Chalk up one more loss for the Sabres this season.

The rebuilding club couldn’t retain the No. 1 overall pick during Tuesday’s NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto. Instead, the Florida Panthers moved up one spot to the top selection.

The Sabres will pick second in June. Thanks to their 30th ranking this season, the Sabres had a 25 percent chance of keeping the top pick, more than any other team. The Panthers had an 18.8 percent chance.

Earlier Tuesday, Sabres general …

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Nathan Lieuwen made his NHL debut on Sunday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – A day after his surprising NHL debut, everything had settled down a bit for Sabres rookie Nathan Lieuwen.

Lieuwen said his body felt OK after playing three games in three days, a rarity for a goalie. He even remembered some of the action he faced Sunday. Memories were a blur following his 22-minute, 10-save relief appearance in the Sabres’ 2-0 loss to Montreal.

“I could remember a few more things this morning,” a smiling Lieuwen said Monday inside the First …

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Nathan Lieuwen watches the play Sunday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Fresh off two weekend appearances with Rochester, goalie Nathan Lieuwen learned early Sunday he had earned his first recall to the Sabres.

Newcomer Michal Neuvirth was injured, so the 22-year-old would be backing up Jhonas Enroth inside the First Niagara Center.

“I was shocked. I was nervous. Everything,” a smiling Lieuwen said after stopping all 10 shots he faced in his NHL debut, a 2-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. “I couldn’t stop smiling all morning.”

Lieuwen wasn’t expecting to play. …

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Thomas Vanek played his first game back in Buffalo on Sunday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Back in the summer, Thomas Vanek had a simple, straightforward question for the Sabres. The slick winger wanted to know what direction the team was going.

“No one really had an answer,” Vanek said Sunday prior to the Montreal Canadiens’ 2-0 win against Sabres, his first game back here. “That’s when I kind of made up my mind July 1 (unrestricted free agency) was probably a goal of mine.”

The Sabres, of course, traded Vanek, their co-captain, to the New …

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