The Eichel Era

Linus Ullmark struggled late in the season in Rochester. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

ROCHESTER – In the midst of a nine-game AHL winless stretch in which Buffalo Sabres prospect Linus Ullmark allowed 37 goals, the rookie goalie received a much-needed confidence boost.

When a bruised finger prevented goalie Chad Johnson from playing April 9, the Sabres recalled the struggling Swede from the Americans hours before their season finale against the New York Islanders.

In his first NHL start since Jan. 12, Ullmark helped the Sabres win 4-3 in overtime. The victory, Ullmark’s only win at …

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Matt Ellis will have options if he retires. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

ROCHESTER – Physically, Matt Ellis said, he hasn’t felt this good in four or five years. At 34 years old, having just finished his 14th pro season, the popular former Buffalo Sabres forward believes he could keep playing.

“I definitely feel like I got lots left in the tank,” Ellis said Thursday inside the Blue Cross War Memorial.

Still, Ellis understands he could be nearing retirement. This season, his first out of the NHL in 10 years, he played only 56 times …

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Andrey Makarov became a spare part late this season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
4

ROCHESTER – It rarely happens. In fact, it might have been a first. Five days after posting a 30-save shutout, the Americans scratched a healthy Andrey Makarov for their next game, Friday’s 5-0 loss to Albany.

Top Buffalo Sabres goalie prospect Linus Ullmark started the home finale. Nathan Lieuwen, just back from his three-week NHL stint, backed up the Swede.

The loquacious Makarov, 22, watched from the stands wearing a suit.

Two years ago, Makarov was developing into the Buffalo Sabres’ best young …

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Patrick Kaleta has played only 26 games with Rochester. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
6

ROCHESTER – Patrick Kaleta smirked before pausing 10 seconds. The popular former Buffalo Sabres winger kept searching for the right word to describe his first full AHL season since 2006-07, his rookie year.

The oft-injured agitator, a veteran of 348 NHL games, never found one.

“Kind of hard to put a word on it,” Kaleta said Friday inside the Blue Cross War Memorial. “But with what I can kind of control playing-wise, I did what I needed to do. I’ll just leave …

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Tyler Ennis wants to improve his practice habits. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

BUFFALO – As winger Tyler Ennis watched his teammates enjoy some success during his three-month recovery from a concussion, the Sabres’ longest-tenured player reflected on his career and how he must improve.

One day, Ennis, 26, told Tim Murray, “I used to come in to practice and put my skates and pants on and have fun,” the general manager said Monday inside the First Niagara Center.

“Maybe this makes him a better player,” Murray said. “Maybe this makes him a harder worker.”

The …

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Justin Bailey just scored his 20th goal. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

ROCHESTER – Before Americans winger Justin Bailey started his first pro season, he set a significant goal for himself. The Williamsville native wanted to score 20 times, a tough number for anyone, let alone a rookie, to reach in this low-scoring era.

“I think it’s something that in the beginning I strived to accomplish,” Bailey said Thursday inside the Blue Cross War Memorial after the AHL club prepared for tonight’s home finale against the Albany Devils.

After his first month, Bailey, 20, …

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Chad Johnson talks Sunday. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
1

BUFFALO – Chad Johnson often talks about his desire to be a starting goalie, so not surprisingly, the Sabres veteran has already examined the jobs that could be open when he hits unrestricted free agency July 1.

“It’s hard not to,” Johnson said Sunday as the Sabres held their end-of-season meetings. “I try to stay as in the moment (as possible). I’m not going say which teams, but there’s four teams that need goaltenders or starting goaltenders or don’t have guys …

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General manager Tim Murray (left) and coach Dan Bylsma are excited about the Sabres' direction.. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

BUFFALO – Following a 27-point improvement in 2015-16, a season in which the Sabres morphed from the NHL’s laughingstock into a legitimate team again, the playoffs “may actually be a realistic goal” next year, general manager Tim Murray said.

“So that will be our statement to the players, that yes, the goal is to reach the playoffs, and that we actually do expect that we can do that,” Murray said Monday during an end-of-season news conference with coach Dan Bylsma inside …

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Cody McCormick has still been around the rink. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
2

BUFFALO – The blood clots Cody McCormick developed halfway through 2014-15 will force the rugged Sabres forward to retire, general manager Tim Murray said Monday.

“Cody McCormick is not going to jeopardize his life or his family by trying to play again,” Murray said inside the First Niagara Center. “We support him in that. He was around this winter and did some other things when players were rehabbing. So I don’t know if that’s going to be a future thing or …

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Tim Murray smiles this afternoon. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
0

BUFFALO – Following a 27-point improvement in 2015-16, a season in which the Sabres morphed from the NHL’s laughingstock into a legitimate team again, the playoffs “may actually be a realistic goal” next year, general manager Tim Murray said.

“So that will be our statement to the players, that yes, the goal is to reach the playoffs, and that we actually do expect that we can do that,” Murray said this afternoon during an end-of-season news conference with coach Dan Bylsma …

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