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Washington Capitals

Dmitry Kulikov has battled a back injury all season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges has a non-displaced fracture in his foot and will be sidelined “weeks,” coach Dan Bylsma said Sunday.

There is, however, some good news for the Sabres’ injury-ravaged blue line, which is missing three regulars. Dmitry Kulikov, out the last 11 games with a back injury, practiced Sunday inside HarborCenter and is day-to-day, Bylsma said.

Still, the Russian likely won’t play in tonight’s road tilt against the Washington Capitals. Later in the week appears to be the …

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Robin Lehner (40) has enjoyed a strong season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – It’s easy to forget now, with Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson tending some of the NHL’s best goal, but six weeks ago, the Swedes were two of the Sabres’ biggest question marks.

Lehner, 25, was coming off a season in which a high ankle sprain dogged him and limited his action. Meanwhile, Nilsson, 26, had enjoyed little sustained success as a backup goalie for three other teams.

Right now, they’re quietly one of the league’s best duos entering this afternoon’s …

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Mike Weber hasn't played in the playoffs since 2011. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – At times over a rough two-year stretch, as Mike Weber accumulated the NHL’s worst plus-minus rating, it appeared the ex-Sabres defenseman might never recapture his old form.

The passionate Weber, 28, often became the poster boy for the Sabres’ struggles during their run as the NHL’s laughingstock.

But Weber, not coincidentally, morphed back into his old self on the revamped Sabres this season.

Defensemen, especially reliable depth ones with Weber’s grit and passion, are always in demand at this time of …

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Mike Weber was the Sabres' longest-tenured player. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres traded gritty defenseman Mike Weber, the club’s longest-tenured player and a heart-and-soul-presence, to the Washington Capitals tonight for a third-round draft pick in 2017.

“It’s difficult to trade someone that has been a part of the organization for 10 years, but I think this is a good opportunity for the player and for our organization,” Sabres general manager Tim Murray said in a statement. “I would like to thank Mike for his time with the Sabres and …

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Tim Schaller scores his first-period short-handed goal Saturday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Count the Sabres’ exciting 4-1 shellacking of the high-powered Washington Capitals on Saturday as perhaps the most impressive victory felt in these parts in years.

The 29th-ranked Sabres ended a five-game home losing streak while manhandling the league-leading Capitals, who roared into the First Niagara Center having won five straight contests and 14 of the last 16.

This one was never in doubt and had a little bit of everything. First-period goals from Phil Varone and Tim Schaller, two recent …

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Phil Varone scored his fifth NHL goal Saturday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Just 18 days ago, when the Rochester Americans made their yearly visit to the First Niagara Center, Phil Varone watched as a healthy scratch. At that point, almost halfway through his fifth professional season, the forward appeared to be on the outs with the Sabres organization.

Despite playing 28 NHL games last year and earning a contract worth $200,000 in the minors, Varone’s poor play and the Amerks’ glut of veterans helped him get benched five times recently.

But Varone, …

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Phil Varone will replace Zemgus Girgensons. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Just a couple of weeks ago, the chances of Phil Varone earning another recall to the Sabres appeared to be slim. The center, 25, was struggling with the Rochester Americans, getting scratched thanks to a glut of veterans and a terrible minus rating.

When the Amerks played a game on Dec. 30 at the First Niagara Center, Varone sat out.

But Varone, the Amerks’ leading goal scorer with 10, has recently been the AHL’s club’s best forward. With winger Zemgus …

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Sabres defenseman Mike Weber (6) hounds New Jersey's Joseph Blandisi earlier this season. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – When you sweat and bleed for an emblem for so long, Sabres defenseman Mike Weber said, it becomes a part of you.

Weber, 28, is the Sabres’ longest-tenured player by two full years. Having debuted Oct. 26, 2007, he has experienced all the highs and lows of the team’s recent tumultuous history.

The Pittsburgh native will proudly tell you he has grown up in the organization and how much he loves Buffalo.

“I don’t know how else to say this,” Weber …

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Robin Lehner has played part of one game this season. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Robin Lehner still has no firm timeline for his return to NHL game action. Right now, the Sabres goalie just plans to keep practicing, something he did with his teammates Tuesday for the first time since suffering a high right ankle sprain Oct. 8.

Still, Lehner knows he should be back soon, and that’s a good feeling for the Swede, who has played only 32 minutes since Feb. 16, when he suffered a season-ending concussion with Ottawa.

Just being on …

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Alex Ovechkin scored his 493rd NHL goal Monday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

BUFFALO – At some points this season, the Sabres’ power play was their backbone, generating critical goals when they couldn’t score five-on-five.

But these days, the Sabres are awful on the man advantage. After going scoreless in three opportunities in Monday’s chippy 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals before a sellout crowd of 19,070 fans inside the First Niagara Center, the Sabres have converted zero of their last 17 chances over the past six games.

The power play, not surprisingly, has become …

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