The Eichel Era

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Washington Capitals

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
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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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Evander Kane played a strong game Monday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres winger Evander Kane, the subject of a sex offense investigation by Buffalo police, declared his innocence Monday morning prior to playing in his team’s 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals.

“There’s not a whole lot I can say,” Kane told a throng of reporters and cameras inside the First Niagara Center. “I just want to say I’ve done nothing wrong. I look forward to clearing my name.”

In a 25-second statement, Kane, 24, also said he respects the legal …

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Evander Kane will play tonight. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Sabres winger Evander Kane, the subject of a sex offense investigation by Buffalo police following an alleged incident at a downtown hotel Sunday morning, said today he has done nothing wrong and looks forward to clearing his name.

Kane, 24, will play tonight against the Washington Capitals and skated this morning with his teammates inside the First Niagara Center. Prior to taking the ice, Kane addressed his teammates with coach Dan Bylsma present.

Following the Sabres’ skate, Kane left the …

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Jack Eichel had a career-high four points Saturday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Coach Dan Bylsma isn’t sure what sparked it. Perhaps it was Jack Eichel’s secondary assist on the first goal Saturday in Boston. Or maybe it was the slick center’s tying score late in the Sabres’ thrilling 6-3 comeback win against the Bruins, the rookie’s first NHL game in his hometown.

Whatever happened, for the first time in a while, Bylsma said, Eichel simply enjoyed playing and “not carrying the weight of having to score.”

By the end of the Sabres’ …

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Sabres goalie Anders Lindback gloves a shot Monday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – After getting throttled nine days earlier in Washington, the Sabres wanted another crack at the Capitals oh-so badly. The blowout loss left the rebuilding club bitter.

“It was a stinker last time we were in Washington,” winger Tyler Ennis said Monday following the Sabres’ entertaining and spirited 4-3 shootout loss. “They had their No. 1 unit out when it was 5-1, and they scored to make it 6-1 and celebrated pretty hard.”

The Sabres matched the Capitals for 65 minutes …

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