Happy New Year

Ryan O'Reilly believes the Sabres play better when they think less. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Suddenly, the Sabres have some hope. Three wins in four games will create that. So will the type of victories they’ve earned.

In addition to Saturday afternoon’s thrilling come-from-behind win against Winnipeg, a tilt emotional enough it felt like it could change their season, the Sabres have played two of their best games of 2016-17 this month.

In beating Philadelphia 4-1 on Tuesday, a game that mirrored their 4-1 road win against the New York Rangers a week earlier, the …

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Derek Grant played 35 games with the Sabres. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – As noon, the end of the 24-hour waiver period, approached, Derek Grant was told to stop practicing with the Sabres and leave the ice.

Why?

The Nashville Predators claimed the center on waivers today, robbing the Sabres of some valuable depth they wanted to send to the AHL Rochester Americans.

“It’s a new experience for me,” Grant, who was still wearing his Sabres jersey and equipment, told the Times Herald. “Obviously, I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Still, Grant, who played 35 games …

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Anders Nilsson makes one of his 39 saves Tuesday. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – With about 10 minutes left in Tuesday’s 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, as the Sabres closed out an impressive start-to-finish effort, center Ryan O’Reilly said he felt differently.

For one of the few times this season, the Sabres were in total control late, cruising to a victory instead of trying to eke one out or overcome a deficit.

“It’s been a while since we kind of had that feeling, last 10 minutes and you kind of know that you …

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Kyle Okposo has produced offense this season. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – So far, just 39 games into his career here, Kyle Okposo has lived up to his billing as one of the NHL’s most underrated scorers. The winger has quietly been the Sabres’ most consistent forward, compiling 12 goals and 27 points, both team highs.

Okposo’s strong season was rewarded Tuesday with a spot in the NHL All-Star Game for the first time in his 10-year career. The Minnesota native will represent the Atlantic Division at the game Jan. 29 …

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Kyle Okposo leads the Sabres in goals and points. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – So far, just 38 games into his career here, Kyle Okposo has lived up to his billing as one of the NHL’s most underrated scorers. The winger has quietly been the Sabres’ most consistent forward, compiling 12 goals and 27 points, both team highs.

Okposo’s strong season was rewarded this afternoon with a spot in the NHL All-Star Game for the first time in his 10-year career. The Minnesota native will represent the Atlantic Division at the game Jan. …

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Robin Lehner has played 27 games this season. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The flu bug going around the Sabres dressing room has hit goalie Robin Lehner, so the Swede will miss tonight’s tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Backup Anders Nilsson will sub, his third start in four games. Expect a goalie, most likely Linus Ullmark, to be recalled. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma wouldn’t confirm Ullmark was coming up, however.

Update: Ullmark has officially been recalled.

Bylsma said no other players are sick.

With Lehner out, goalie coach Andrew Allen, a former pro netminder, subbed …

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Zemgus Girgensons finally scored a goal at home Saturday. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Almost six minutes into the third period Saturday afternoon, Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons kicked the puck along the boards and quickly headed to the net.

A second later, he knocked down Matt Moulson’s shot in front, skated across the crease and swept a backhander past Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck, the tying goal in the Sabres’ raucous 4-3 come-from-behind victory.

Then Girgensons, normally a calm presence, let loose with an emotional celebration, pumping his arms, yelling and banging the glass.

“I don’t …

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Tyler Ennis has missed 27 games. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Before Tyler Ennis can return from a groin injury that has sidelined him 27 games, the Sabres must put the shifty winger through difficult practices featuring rough battle drills and bumping from heavy bodies.

Ennis, who underwent surgery Nov. 10, responded well to the arduous session today inside KeyBank Center. So, could the Sabres’ longest-tenured player be close to returning?

“We’re getting close, just need a few more sessions like that,” Ennis said.

Ennis, 27, wouldn’t rule out Tuesday’s home game …

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Brian Gionta (12) celebrates his go-ahead goal Saturday afternoon. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – If the last-place Sabres go on a three-month tear, roar up the standings and do the unthinkable – that’s secure a playoff spot – remember their offensive outburst late in Saturday afternoon’s thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind win.

Down 3-1 against the Winnipeg Jets and trudging toward their eighth loss in 10 games, the Sabres suddenly exploded for three goals in just 4:42, sending the capacity crowd of 19,070 fans into a frenzy.

The wild third, which also featured a booming hit …

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The Sabres traded Drew Stafford in 2015. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – Drew Stafford’s season started ominously. In a Winnipeg Jets preseason game, the former Sabres winger suffered two injuries from one hit.

At first, Stafford thought the thump from Ottawa’s Michael Blunden had only hurt his shoulder.

“I also didn’t realize it at the time – I felt like I was OK – but I had some concussion symptoms early on then, because I hit my head and my shoulder into the boards,” Stafford told the Times Herald.

Things quickly worsened for …

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