Wednesday, September 30, 2015

3 games in 4 nights begins tonight vs. Leafs at F'N Center

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The trimming of the roster will continue over the course of the next week as the Buffalo Sabres ready themselves for their season opener on October 8th. The Ottawa Senators visit the First Niagara Center next Thursday in one of the most anticipated season openers for Buffalo in a long time.

With the roster makeover in full swing as GM Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma now lead the journey up from the bottom of the league. With only three games remaining in the preseason, many are fighting for NHL roster spots and it's especially tight up-front as only two or three bottom-six spots might be available.

Defense is a bit different as injuries have crept into the equation meaning that a player like 18 yr. old Brendan Guhle (2015, 51st overall,) who would normally be headed back to junior sometime within the next week, may get an extended look in the regular season. Two d-men trying to make enough of an impression to stick with the Sabres--Jake McCabe and Chad Ruhwedel--are suffering from injuries that will probably sideline them for the rest of the preseason. That would make two years in a row that McCabe went down in the preseason. Last year upon his return he was sent to Rochester and it's likely that both he and Ruhwedel will be headed there once healthy.

Goaltending is pretty much a lock. Barring injury, Robin Lehner should start vs. his old team on October 8th with Chad Johnson as back-up.

The Amerks opened up their camp yesterday and saw an influx of players. Loaned to Rochester were forwards Justin Bailey (2013, 52nd) and Nicolas Baptiste (2013, 69th.) As expected both were sent to Rochester to begin their professional careers in probable top-six roles. They were joined by Jean Dupuy (2014, FA,) William Carrier (2015, 57th, STL,) Daniel Catenacci (2011, 77th,) Justin Kea (2012, 73rd) and Jack Nevins (2013, FA, MTL) to fill out the forward ranks. Jerry D'Amigo (2009, 158th, CLB) and Phil Varone (2009, 147th, SJS) both passed through waivers and will be joining the club up-front as well. Forward Matt Garbowsky (2015, FA) and defenseman Matt Prapavessis (2015, FA) were released from their respective PTO's with Buffalo and joined Rochester on their AHL contracts.

Goaltender Andrey Makarov was also loaned to Rochester and looks to be the starter in net for the Amerks this season.

Rochester opened training camp yesterday with 23 players including recently signed defensemen Colby Robak (2008, 46th, FLA) and Spiro Goulakos.

Robak was with the Amerks when they were affiliated with the Florida Panthers while the Sabres were in Portland, ME and has bounced around over the last three seasons with stops that included stints in the NHL (FLA, ANA) and the AHL (San Antoino and Norfolk.) The 6'3", 207 lb. Robak told Amerks broadcaster Don Stevens of his return to Rochester, "It's good to be back. [Walking through those doors] took me back a few years. The start of my pro career was here and I had a good time. It's a great city, the fans are great and the organization's great."

Goulakos was an invitee to Sabres camp, was released from his PTO last Thursday and was signed by Rochester on Sunday. The Montreal native came from Colgate University where he was captain the his last two years in college.

Filling out the roster for yesterday's skate were forwards, Cason Hohmann, Chris LangkowMike Seidel, Garrett Klotz,  Allan McPherson (re-signed 2015,) Scott Jacklin and William Kessel. Also skating were defenseman Josh Chapman and Zach Tokinen as well as goaltender, CJ Motte. See's Warren Kosel's day one notes here.

It will be the last hurrah for some to the players slated to play in tonight's matchup vs. the Maple Leafs. Forwards Evan Rodrigues (2015, FA) and Cal O'Reilly will be on a line tonight while Jason Akeson (2015, FA) and Tim Schaller (2013, FA) are expected to go on Thursday. Of the four, Schaller looks to be the only one with a legitimate shot at making the Sabres roster opening night, but even that's slim as Buffalo's loaded with players up front.

The Amerks are waiting for the defense to sort itself out in Buffalo, but injuries have clouded things. As mentioned, both McCabe and Ruhwedel are shelved and both are expected to be in Buffalo while veteran Bobby Sanguinetti (2006, 21st, NYR) has an upper body injury.

There's good news for the Sabres defense-corps, however, as Rasmus Ristolainen is slated to make his preseason debut. Bylsma's looking to limit his top-pairing d-man to around 18-20 minutes. He said Ristolainen's injury didn't prevent him from skating and that he's now ready for some live action hitting.

In goal for the Sabres tonight is Robin Lehner who should be in the entire game.

The game is at 7:00pm and will be televised inside of 716 at HARBORCENTER.

From WGR's Paul Hamilton, tonight's expected forward lines:

Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Ennis
Matt Moulson, Jack  Eichel, Brian Gionta
Evan Rodrigues,  Cal O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart
Marcus Foligno, David Legwand, Nic Deslauriers

Ristolainen is expected to be joined on defense by Carlo Colaiacovo, Brendan Guhle, Cody Franson, Matt Donovan and Mike Weber.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--D, Mike Weber

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The top-five defensemen headed into the 2015-16 are pretty much a lock. Defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Cody Franson and Mark Pysyk have all made their mark for the team in one way or another and all that's left to figure out is, who the No. 6 d-man will be.

In the mix is 32 yr. old, defensive defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo whom GM Tim Murray signed for depth. Edmond, OK native and puck-mover Matt Donovan was up with the NY Islanders last season but only played in 12 games and was signed by the Sabres after the Islanders opted not to qualify him. Buffalo rookie Jake McCabe is the fans choice but he still needs to iron out some inconsistencies in his two-way game and Rochester is as good a place as any to do that. Puck-mover Chad Ruhwedel who's shown a nice scoring touch in Rochester has yet to turn heads in Buffalo.

Eighteen year old Brendan Guhle, a 2015 second round pick (51st overall) has piqued the interest of many with his advanced skating, athleticism and acute hockey sense but, why rush the kid? Another year at Prince Albert (WHL) with the Raiders playing top minutes is a logical step. Of note: Murray has already signed him to his entry-level deal.

And then there's 27 yr. old Mike Weber. The Pittsburgh, PA native, who will be entering his eighth season with the club, is the longest-tenured Sabre.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Buffalo rolls through Ontario with weekend wins

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Although it's only preseason, Buffalo Sabres fans are sure to like what's transpired thus far. After back-to-back, split-squad wins at Toronto and Ottawa, the Sabres stand at 3-1 with three more games slated before the season begins on October 8th.

In looking at the roster prior to Tuesday's preseason opener at the Minnesota Wild, the results thus far were somewhat anticipated. Sabres GM Tim Murray shored up the top-six with the acquisitions of Evander Kane and Ryan O'Reilly while also adding second-overall pick Jack Eichel at the 2015 NHL Draft. With those additions, as well as an up-tempo style favored by new head coach "Dancin'" Dan Bylsma, the Sabres had the look of a team that was ready to eradicate the offensive ineptitude from the collective consciousness of Sabreland. And they've done that thus far.

Perceived weaknesses on the back-end and in goal were areas of concern as they construct of the defense is still a work in progress. With top-four d-men Rasmus Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian out with injuries, most of the defense was playing a notch or two higher than their capabilities and it showed in the goals against.

Not to be discounted in the 15 goals against in four games thus far is goaltending, which was cause for concern heading into camp. Robin Lehner came in as the starter with Chad Johnson as the back-up. Lehner has done nothing to solidify his spot and looks like a goalie who hadn't seen live action since suffering a concussion back in February. Johnson was also felled by injury in late February and hasn't seen action since. Both, obviously, are a bit rusty to say the least.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--D, Mark Pysyk

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Of all the players mired in the muck that was the Buffalo Sabres last two seasons, defenseman Mark Pysyk was the one who got crapped on the most. But with that over and fading into memory, it's time for him to take his place in the Sabres top-six defense corps.

When it comes to Pysyk and how he'd been approaching his time in Rochester despite having more to offer than half the d-men that have paraded through Buffalo the last two years, I keep hearing the words of long-time Amerks broadcaster, Don Stevens. Said Stevens of Pysyk, "He's just glad to be playing the game of hockey, which is the kind of player you want. He wants to be playing. I think he's smart enough to know that he has a long career ahead of him and that he can settle in for the long haul."

The "long-haul" begins this season. Finally.

It's safe to say that almost every Sabres fan thought Pysyk would be in the lineup last season, but he was a caught up in a crude game that included numbers, waivers, a preseason injury and an organizational focus on the long-term. In addition there was drama surrounding 19 yr. old defenseman Nikita Zadorov that included a tug of war between the Zadorov camp, the Canadian Hockey League and the KHL which would also affect Pysyk's status with the club.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--RW, Brian Gionta

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Buffalo Sabres RW, Brian Gionta is a veteran of 13 NHL seasons. The former 3rd round pick (82nd overall,) who was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1998, won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2003, just his second season in the NHL. He also captained the most storied franchise in the league--the Montreal Canadiens--to a birth in the eastern conference finals the season before he came to Buffalo as a free agent in 2014. Gionta has the distinction of being the only full-fledged American-born team captain in the Canadiens 106-year history.

Gionta headlined a trio that included Matt Moulson and Josh Gorges coming to Buffalo that off season making the Sabres of the 2014 off season. With Buffalo intent upon fully bottoming out most had thought that the Sabres would have very little opportunity to land players of significance. But GM Tim Murray pulled a bit of a coup landing what turned out to be his three captains for the 2014-15 season. Although many had visions of the team improving greatly with those additions, the team once again sank to the bottom of the league. And for a player like Gionta who had known plenty of success throughout his NHL career, it was tough.

"Last year was one of the most frustrating years if not the most frustrating year of my professional career," said Gionta at training camp last week. "It was hard to get through." But being the true professional that he is, he spent the season controlling what he could control, his play. "At the same time you find things to grow off of and you find ways to improve yourself. You take that experience from last year and try to make it what it is."

"When teams are winning, things are easy," Gionta said to long-time Rochester Americans broadcaster Don Stevens while speaking at a youth camp this summer. "But when you're losing, you have to try and find answers and solutions and stay positive. You lose all the time, you don't want that feeling to set in and become the new normal. So that was the hardest thing, showing up at the rink and being positive each day and finding something to draw on to help the situation.''

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ottawa downs Sabres. Game notes plus other quick shots.

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The Buffalo Sabres are 1-1 in the preseason thus far after last night's 5-2 loss at the hands of the Ottawa Senators. Although Buffalo dominated in the shot department with 42 shots on goal compared to Ottawa's 26, they had trouble finding the back of the net. Senators goalie Matt O'Connor, a former teammate of Jack Eichel with the Boston University Terriers last season, was particularly stout in net for Ottawa as he stopped all 18 shots he faced including five on an early power play for the Sabres. The 6'6" netminder outdueled his counterpart across the ice as Buffalo goalie, and former Senator, Robin Lehner stopped only 16 of the 19 shots he faced (.843 save %.)

The Sabres were done-in by three Ottawa goals in 3:26 span during the second period. The line of Jason Akeson, David Legwand and Evan Rodrigues, along with 18 yr. old defenseman Brendan Guhle, were victimized for two of the three goals.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tonights lineup vs. the Ottawa Senators for preseason game No. 2

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The Buffalo Sabres will be at home tonight for their second preseason game. Only one member of the squad that downed the Minnesota Wild on Monday will be in the lineup--D, Brendan Guhle. Here was the line up for that game:

Matt Moulson, Jack Eichel, Zemgus Girgensons
Marcus Foligno, Johan Larsson, Nic Deslauriers
William Carrier, Phil Varone, Justin Bailey
Jean Dupuy, Matt Ellis, Vaclav Karabacek

Mike Weber, Cody Franson
Brendan Guhle, Mark Pysyk
Jake McCabe, Brady Austin

Chad Johnson
Nathan Lieuwen

Tonight's lineup (via WGR's Paul Hamilton):

Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Ennis
Jamie McGinn, Sam Reinhart, Brian Gionta
Jerry D'Amigo, Eric Cornel, Nicholas Baptiste
Evan Rodrigues,  David Legwand, Jason Akeson

Guhle, Josh Gorges,
Carlo Colaiacovo, Chad Ruhwedel
Jerome Leduc, Matt Donovan

Former Ottawa Senator Robin Lehner puts on the Blue and Gold for the first time to face his former team while Andrey Makarov backs him up in net.

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--LW, Matt Moulson

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Nearly two years ago, on October 27, 2013 the Buffalo Sabres acquired LW Matt Moulson from the NY Islanders in the Thomas Vanek trade Also coming to Buffalo was what turned out to be a 2015 first round pick (No. 21 sent to Ottawa in the Robin Lehner trade on draft day) and a 2015 second round pick (Brendan Guhle, 51st-overall.) That was the last trade former GM Darcy Regier made before he was fired on November 13th.

Moulson was coming off a lockout-shortened season where he scored 15 goals in 47 games. In his three seasons prior he hit the 30-goal mark each season averaging nearly 32 goals while developing a strong chemistry with former first overall pick John Tavares (2009.) Ironically, Tavares was at Moulson's house when the unexpected trade went down.

It was a curious move by Isles GM Garth Snow as he traded a productive fan favorite in  Moulson for the star-power of Vanek. Expectations were that Vanek would explode with a bona fide #1 center for years to come. Once it was clear that Vanek wouldn't sign long-term, Snow shipped him off to Montreal at the 2015 trade deadline after just 47 games with the club (17 goals.)

As expected, Moulson was also traded at the deadline. He and Cody McCormick went to the playoff-bound Minnesota Wild for Torrey Mitchell, a 2014 second-round pick (No. 39 from Winnipeg, traded to Washington for No. 44, Eric Cornel, and No. 74, Brycen Martin) and a 2016 second rounder which was sent to the Montreal Canadiens for D, Josh Gorges.

After a short stint with the Wild and an equally short playoff-run, Moulson signed a 5yr./$25M contract with the Sabres on July 1, 2014.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I think it's pretty safe for Jack Eichel to don the No. 15

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Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel has said that he'll continue to wear No. 41 until he officially makes the roster and only at that time will he switch to his permanent No. 15. It's a noble gesture from a character kid who's unassuming nature can traced to his roots when his father Bob engrained in him that everything's earned and nothing's guaranteed. But after last night's opening preseason game at Minnesota it would be safe to assume that he'll on the roster.

With the Sabres down 2-1 in the third period RW, Zemgus Girgensons got the puck off the wall and fed Eichel creating a two-on-one. The 18 yr. old center found his other linemate, LW, Matt Moulson in the paint and the 31 yr. old veteran promptly deposited the puck in the net to tie the score. Of note:  on the ice for the Wild at the time was a group of top-end veterans for Minnesota--Mikael Grandlund, Jason Pominville, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon.

Moulson's at his best when he's workin' the paint, it was something that he admitted he'd gotten away from last year. But with linemates Eichel and Girgensons he certainly knows what to do. "With [Eichel] and Zemgus out there, I think the biggest thing is just get [to the net] and the puck's gonna get there at some point."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--C, Sam Reinhart

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The consensus at the 2014 NHL Draft is that it was a three-horse race for No. 1 overall between defenseman Aaron Ekblad and centers Samson Reinhart and Samuel Bennett. Ekblad went to the team that won the draft lottery that year, the Florida Panthers, Reinhart was taken by the Buffalo Sabres who finished last in the league and Bennett ended up going fourth-overall to the Calgary Flames after the Edmonton Oilers opted to pursue center Leon Draisatl with the third-overall pick.

Selecting Reinhart with the second-overall pick was a no-brainer according to Sabres GM Tim Murray. "He was the first player on our list," said Murray at the draft. "He was [first] on our list at our organizational meeting in May. We've tweaked those lists a couple of times, but we didn't tweak [number] one."

What the Sabres and the rest of the scouting community saw in Reinhart, was neatly summarized by Kris Baker of "He can slow it down and speed it up, and his ability to see open passing lanes is a skill that cannot be taught. Reinhart is also a highly proficient finisher who finds space down low to pop off quality wrist shots and bang home second chances. [His] knack for knowing where everyone is at all times could plug into any team’s future plans as a legitimate top line center prospect."

TSN's Craig Button was even more succinct saying "Reinhart beats up opponents with his mind."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--D, Cody Franson

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Let's get right to the point when it comes to new Buffalo Sabres defenseman, Cody Franson, he's really not interested in playing the left side on defense. He said so himself on Hockey Hotline, "I don't play the left side," he told the Hotline's Kevin Sylvester and Andrew Peters, "I actually struggle over there." 

Which makes it strange that Sabres GM Tim Murray would sign the veteran unrestricted free agent, and it’s a little bit stranger that he would do so for more than a one-year contract.

For all intents and purposes, Murray is finished with the forward ranks this off season, unless something comes along that blows him away. In a matter of six months he added forwards Evander Kane and Ryan O'Reilly through trades and drafted center Jack Eichel with the second-overall pick in June. Add those three to some of the players already on the team and it's a pretty strong, albeit young, nucleus with plenty of upside.

Unfortunately, in the process of bolstering the forwards Murray had to trade away defensemen. When Tyler Myers and Nikita Zadorov were traded in the Kane and O'Reilly trades, respectively, the depth chart flipped and by the time the 2015 Draft was in the books, Murray was in the market for a veteran defenseman, “I probably need a veteran UFA defenseman or I have to trade for one,” he said post-draft. “I’ve been talking to teams about a left-shot D.”

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--D, Josh Gorges

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Defenseman Josh Gorges was one of three veteran players brought to Buffalo by Sabres GM Tim Murray at the beginning of free agency July 1, 2014. The trio of Gorges, Brian Gionta and Matt Moulson were headed to a team that had just finished in last place and the prospects for the upcoming season didn't look much brighter. Sure enough, the Sabres finished in last place once again.

Unlike Gionta and Moulson who signed free agent contracts with the Sabres, Gorges was traded for. Murray sent a 2016 second round pick (received from Minnesota in the 2014 trade of Moulson to the Wild) to the Montreal Canadiens for Gorges. It was a trade that surprised many, especially up in Toronto where backlash was fast and furious. The Maple Leafs had a trade offer on the table, but Gorges had a limited no-trade clause which included the Toronto as one of 15 teams he would not go to. Buffalo was originally on that list but Gorges reconsidered and the trade to the Sabres went through.

Boy did that ruffle some feathers at "the center of the hockey universe."

"[Gorges] made that decision of supposedly sound mind, or so we are informed," wrote Steve Simmons of the Toronto Star. "He selected living in Buffalo and playing for quite possibly the worst team in the NHL over living in Toronto and playing in the so-called centre of the hockey universe.

"He chose the armpit of America over one of the world’s great cities, current traffic and politics aside."

Friday, September 18, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--RW, Jamie McGinn

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In case y'all missed it (or forgot,) Buffalo Sabres forward Jamie McGinn was a part of the franchise-altering events that took place on draft-day, 2015. With Jack Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly and Robin Lehner grabbing all of the headlines that day, McGinn (as well as David Legwand) were kind of lost in the shuffle, but it looks as if he'll play a significant role on the team at least for this season.

The depth-chart on the right side is missing one viable top-six candidate. Up-top at right wing is Tyler Ennis, who's just entering his prime. Ennis has had consistent production despite being moved around and in spite of the fact that the last two seasons he was on an historically bad Buffalo Sabres team. Behind him is a plethora of players more suited to a top-nine role but, because of a hole on the right side, might stretch into a top-six role.

Captain Brian Gionta, a natural right winger, could be slotted in here, but there's a better role for him and it's one of the reasons McGinn might be a better fit on a line featuring Eichel and Zemgus Girgensons.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Eichel propels Sabres to OT win. First Prospects Challenge comes to a close

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Jack Eichel won't turn 19 yrs. old until October 28th and in the short time he's been in the fold in Buffalo, he's given the organization and it's fans something to really get excited about.

Not to dismiss some of the young players that are on the team now, like Rasmus Ristolainen and Zemgus Girgensons, or that will be on the team in the very near future like Sam Reinhart, Jake McCabe, Nicholas Baptiste and Brendan Guhle or even young, seasoned vets like Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis, but what the Sabres have in Eichel is something pretty special.

As chronicled, Eichel is a young man with NHL-size, impressive speed and acceleration and has the ability to either set up or score. He's very strong for his age, doesn't cut corners when it comes to his training regimen and in keeping with the values he was raised with Eichel expects nothing that isn't earned. That foundation was ingrained in him by his father while growing up in North Chelmsford, MA, just 30 miles northwest of Boston.

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--LW, Zemgus Girgensons

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Unless something weird happens, the Buffalo Sabres will be headed into the 2015-16 sesaon with four of their top-six forwards in place—Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis and Jack Eichel. Were they end up to start the season is still up in the air, however. Kane will be at left wing on the top line and that’s about all we can count on right now.
Eichel is slated for second-line center duties as of now (which is something that might change) and there are a myriad of options to fill the wings with. Despite the fact that veteran Matt Moulson had played with, and excelled, on the top line with John Tavares when he was with the NY Islanders, Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons may end up being a better fit for Eichel.
And there’s one overriding reason for this:  Speed.
As witnessed on two occasions during the Prospects Challenge, Eichel’s well-documented speed was on display during the tournament. During the opening goal of the tourney he blazed past the NJ Devils defense and fed a hard-charging Nicholas Baptiste, who was doing everything he could to get into the play, for a tap-in just :25 seconds into the game. In overtime versus the Boston Bruins a tired Eichel still was able to flip the nitrous switch and burn past the Bruins defense to score the winner. As much as I like Moulson, I find it very hard to believe he’d be able to keep up with Eichel.
Girgensons on the other hand, can.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--C, Jack Eichel

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In case you haven't heard of him, Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel was the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and as of right now is more famous due forever being linked to 2015 first-overall draft pick, Connor McDavid, via one word--McEichel.

While Oilers fans ditched the "Eichel" part and promptly crowned Connor "McJesus" in Edmonton, Eichel strapped on his work boots, packed his lunch pail and headed to Buffalo to get settled in as a big piece of the future of the Buffalo Sabres. That's not to say that McDavid doesn't have a work ethic or is the type that will believe in the whole "McSavior" aura, as it's more of a perception thing from the outside world, but they're in very different situations. Both McDavid and Eichel are extremely talented hockey players who work hard at their craft, and although they're both considered franchise players, neck-in-neck in most pundits assessment, they come at if from different directions.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Buffalo opens up the inaugural Prospects Challenge with a bang.

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Last night's display of hockey by the Buffalo Sabres in the inaugural Prospects Challenge was a far cry from how they performed last year when they played in the Traverse City Tournament. How far, you might ask? The six goals the Sabres scored last night equaled their total output last year when the team went 0-3-1 and finished last in the eight-team field.

Perhaps it was the competition as last night's opponents, the New Jersey Devils, couldn't match the Sabres' prospect talent and depth. Perhaps it was the number of older players on the Buffalo bench, all of whom contributed immensely to the offensive output. Or maybe it was the coaching as veteran Randy Cunneyworth took the reigns.

Or, one could say a rested Jack Eichel knows how to set the tone and lead the way.

On his first shift wearing the Blue and Gold, Eichel took a feed from linemate Evan Rodrigues and hit the red line with speed. Blazing speed. By the time he hit the faceoff circle to the right of Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood (2015, 42nd-overall) he was behind the Devil's defense. Charging up the right side and doing everything he could to get into the play was RW, Nicholas Baptiste (2013, 69th) and the two essentially created a 2-on-0. Eichel fed Baptiste on the doorstep who chipped it over Blackwood's pad for a 1-0 lead just :25 seconds into the contest.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--G, Robin Lehner

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Buffalo Sarbes GM Tim Murray ws hellbent and intent upon fixing a goaltending situation that had been in a constant state of flux since he came to the Sabres. During the 2013-14 season Buffalo suited up an NHL-record nine goalies because of trades and injuries.  Ryan Miller, Jhonas Enroth, Ryan Vinz (a HARBORCENTER employee,) Jaroslav Halak, Michal Neuvirth, assistant coach Arturs Irbe, Connor Knapp, Matt Hackett, and Andrey Makarov all donned the Blue and Gold that year.

Last season was better although they still had five goalies play in at least one game for the team:  Enroth and Neuvirth started a combined 62 games for the Sabres before both were traded. Anders Lindback, who came over from Dallas in the Enroth trade started 15 games while Makarov (one game) and Hackett (four games) hit the NHL ice to round things out. The also had Chad "No, I'm not Ocho Cinco" Johnson, who was acquired in the Neuvirth to NY Islanders traded deadline deal. At the time of the deal Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal called Johnson "a nightmare" on Long Island writing that the duo of Lindback and Johnson was "laughably bad" and that they "should give the team the push it needs to finish dead last."

Oddly enough, the only one left standing (other than Yinz who’s still with the Sabres, but got a wiki page out of his 15 minutes of fame) is Johnson who will be back up to Robin Lehner this season.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--D, Zach Bogosian

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With the third pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, the Atlanta Thrashers selected 6'2" 200 lb. defenseman Zach Bogosian who was coming off of an impressive second season playing for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL. Bogosian easily trumped his previous production and went on to lead the team in scoring during the 2007-08 season with 11 goals and 61 points. His 50 assists were 15th in the league and second amongst defensemen (Ryan Wilson, Sarnia Sting, 64.)

The Massena, NY native opted to pursue the Canadian Hockey League instead of going the college route after he had graduated from Cushing Academy in Massachusetts. While at Cushing he was a teammate of Ryan Bourque, son of Boston Bruins Hall of Famer, Ray Bourque, who was also a voluntary assistant for the team. “It was a great situation for me,” Bogosian said at the draft. “I got to see not only what he did on the ice three to four days a week, but watching him off the ice and seeing how he dealt with people was a good learning experience for me.”

What wasn't a great situation for Bogosian was heading to Atlanta to play for the Thrashers after his second Peterborough season.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Buffalo Sabres Inagural Prospect Challenge roster and schedule

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The inaugural Buffalo Sabres Prospects challenge is set to get underway with practices today and games beginning tomorrow.
Buffalo had been a part of the Traverse City Tournament, which is hosted by the Detroit Red Wings, since 2011 but with the completion and opening of HARBORCENTER downtown next to the First Niagara Center the team decided to strike out on it's own. Prospects from the New Jersey Devils and rival Boston Bruins will be headed to downtown Buffalo to take on the Sabres prospects.
The three teams will play a round-robin format over the course of three days at both HARBORCENTER and the First Niagara Center. The tournament allows the organization, as well as the players themselves, the opportunity to see how they stack up against their peers in an NHL setting.
Tickets for each game are $10.
Practice Schedule

Friday, Sept. 11
              Buffalo Practice: 9 – 11 a.m.
              New Jersey practice: 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m
              Boston practice: 3 – 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 12
              Buffalo morning skate: 10 – 11 a.m.
              New Jersey morning skate: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
              Boston practice: 1 – 3 p.m.
              Buffalo vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m., First Niagara Center
Sunday, Sept. 13
              Buffalo practice: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
              Boston morning skate: 10 – 11 a.m. (at HARBORCENTER)
              New Jersey morning skate: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (at HARBORCENTER)
              Boston vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m., HARBORCENTER
Monday, Sept. 14
              Buffalo morning skate: 10 – 11 a.m.
              Boston morning skate: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
              Buffalo vs. Boston, 7 p.m., First Niagara Center

Buffalo Sabres roster
Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste, 
Dan Catenacci, William Carrier, Justin Kea, Jean Dupuy
Evan Rodrigues, Eric Cornel, Matt Garbowsky, Kason Hohmann
Vaclav Karabacek, Giorgio Estephan, Colin Jacobs, Jack Nevins
Jake McCabe, Brendan Guhle, Brycen Martin, Brady Austin
Devante Stephens, Josh Chapman , Matt Prapavessis
David Henley, Spiro Goulakos

Andrey Makarov, CJ Motte, Keegan Asmundson


Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--D, Rasmus Ristolainen

Free agent defenseman Cody Franson has signed a 2-yr. contract with the Buffalo Sabres. There will be a press conference at 11:30 today.

Sabres GM Tim Murray had been looking at signing a left-handed veteran to play top-four minutes and to take some pressure off of some of the youngins on the back-end, but what he got was a veteran righty who may be more of a powerplay specialist.

Originally drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 3rd round (79th overall,) Franson has spent the bulk of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs where he's had the most production including six points (3+3) in seven 2013 playoff games. Nashville traded for him to bolster their defense corps, but Franson  faltered big-time.

I'm not sure why Murray was so intent upon signing Franson, but as AGM in Ottawa he had plenty of opportunity to watch him play with for Leafs so there's something he saw pre-Nashville that piqued his interest. Or perhaps he sees Franson as a stop-gap that can be moved at the 2017 trade deadline as a rental. But for this year it's a signing that almost guarantees prospect Jake McCabe spends one more year developing in Rochester while players like Mike Weber and Matt Donovan may be seeing a lot of time in the pressbox this season.

What the signing won't affect, however, is Rasmus Ristolainen's spot on the top-pairing.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--RW, Tyler Ennis

Reprinted with permission from

Ya gotta give Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis a ton of credit. Despite the malaise surrounding him the past two seasons, he's managed to eek out consistent, solid production during a despondent time in Sabres history. And with that in the rear-view mirror, he heads into the new season with plenty of optimism. "It seemed like a really long two years, but in the grand scheme of things [the rebuild] could be pretty quick ," Ennis told Derek Van Diest of this summer. "[Those two years] might not be as long as you think, but those 160 games felt like 10 years."

It's an era us Sabres fans are ready to put behind as well, but it's something we won't forget either.

The Sabres used the 26th pick (acquired from San Jose in the Brian Campbell trade) in the 2008 NHL Draft to land Ennis who was coming off a 43-goal, 91-point season for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the rugged Western Hockey league. The 5'9" 164 lb. Ennis finished second in goals and fourth overall in scoring that season. He would return to Medicine Hat in 2008-09 and finish with 43 goals in 65 games good for sixth in the league. Of note, the Sabres Evander Kane scored 48 goals in 61 games that season for the Vancouver Giants. Ennis also added 19 points (8+11) in 11 playoff games.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--Evander Kane

Reprinted with permission from

Before the track suit issue, before the accusations of walking out on his tab, and even before “money phone” in Las Vegas, hockey fans were drooling over Evander Kane. The fourth-overall pick in 2009 of the Atlanta Thrashers, chimed in a 6'2" 190 lbs. with exceptional skating ability and a quick release who could handle himself in the most physical of situations. He also had some moxie to game and his demeanor, which back in his early NHL days was considered a positive--the mark of a sniper with supreme confidence in himself.
Back in 2010, Kane was coming off of a solid rookie season with 26 points (14+12) in 66 games and in the last game jaws dropped throughout the hockey world as he knocked out noted pest, Matt Cooke with a right-cross that woulda made Evander Holyfield (for whom he's named) proud. Down went Cooke. Up went Kane's confidence and reputation.

Kane would raise his level of play to the point where he posted a career-high 30 goals and 27 assists in 74 games 2011-12, the first season played in Winnipeg after the Le Thrash relocated. After that season there wasn't a fan in the NHL wouldn't take a 20 yr. old burgeoning power forward with a KO and 30-goal season under his belt.

Yet, it's his unflattering off-ice reputation for being "petulant, immature and lack[ing in] good judgment," as told by TSN's Bob McKenzie.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--Ryan O'Reilly

Reprinted with permission from

Happy Labor and Labour Day, y'all, hope you're doing anything but laboring on this unofficial end to summer. As we head into fall with high school and college football already under way and the pro's getting ready for the season to open on Thursday, hockey fans still have a couple more weeks until training camps get into full swing.

For Buffalo Sabres fans in particular, it's been a pretty uneventful off season save for some signings and re-signings of players and major movement in the front office. Sabres GM Tim Murray got nearly all of his work done between February 11th when he pulled off the trade for Evander Kane and draft day when he selected Jack Eichel with the second overall pick and traded for Ottawa Senators goalie Robin Lehner as well as Colorado Avalanche forward, Ryan O'Reilly who looks to be the team's top-line center.

But before we get to O'Reilly as we build the 2015-16 Sabres roster, for posterity's sake I present last year's opening game roster for the Buffalo Sabres:

Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford
Cody Hodgson, Sam Reinhart, Brian Gionta
Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Chris Stewart
Nicolas Deslauriers, Cody McCormick, Torrey Mitchell

Josh Gorges, Tyler Myers
Andre Benoit, Andrej Meszaros
Mike Weber, Rasmus Ristolainen

Jhonas Enroth

In the Press Box--Brian Flynn, Tyson Strachan, Nikita Zadorov

Now that you've finished shuddering at the memories of this lineup and for one last time say goodbye to the team that finished 23-51-8 last season, rest well with the knowledge that this year's line-up will be much stronger. Although the playoffs still may be out of reach, by adding more firepower up-front this edition of the Buffalo Sabres promises to be much improved and decidedly more watchable than anything witnessed over the course of the last two seasons. And O'Reilly is one of the reasons for this.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Evolution of a goaltender--Cal Petersen

Reprinted with permission from

How do you follow up an 87-save performance in a 5OT loss to begin a playoff series?

Get the win in the next one, then proceed to shut out the opposition, in this case the Massachusetts Minutemen, in the third game to take the three-game series.

Sabres goalie prospect Cal Petersen, like everyone at the Copley Center, home of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, was spent at the end of the opening game of their first round 2015 Hockey East tilt. The Irish and the Minutemen just had played the equivalent of 2 1/2 games in their NCAA D-1-record 151:42 minute slugfest. Although Notre Dame would be on the wrong end of a 4-3 game which eventually concluded at 1:24AM, they would win Game-2 less than 20 hrs. later with Petersen in the crease once again. His ability to shake off the loss and bounce back in the second game of a set was somewhat of a hallmark for him once he became entrenched in the starter's role as a freshman. 

Petersen seemed to pass through a threshold back in a game back in February and with the Irish down 4-0 against Maine. Petersen was summoned to relieve sophomore goalie, Chad Katunar, with whom he'd been sharing the crease with. He started the third period, the team rallied and sent the game to overtime before salvaging a 4-4 tie. The next night Petersen stopped 33 of 34 Black Bears' shots and lead the Irish to a 5-1 victory. The following weekend he earned the split with eventual NCAA Champs, Providence, before facing off against another Hockey East powerhouse in Boston University. They skated to a 2-2 tie on Friday and Notre Dame won the Saturday game 3-2.

Boston College was up the following next and, once again, the Irish dropped the first game (2-0) but came back to win the second one 3-1. Then came the epic 87-save loss vs. Maine and a win the following night.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Some names to watch at the 2015 Buffalo Sabres Prospects Challenge

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres inaugural Prospects Challenge gets underway September 12, 2015 as Buffalo hosts prospects from the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils at both HARBORCENTER and the First Niagara Center. The Sabres had been a part of the Detroit Red Wings' annual Traverse City Tournament before opting out to start their own.

Yesterday the team released their roster of prospects who will be hitting the ice or the three-day round-robin event. Second-overall picks Jack Eichel (2015) and Sam Reinhart (2014) headline a strong group of recent draft picks while defenseman Jake McCabe and goalie Andrey Makarov, both of whom were in Rochester last season playing big roles, lead a small group of "veteran."

With Eichel and Reinhart grabbing most of the attention, here are some names to watch:

--RW's Justin Bailey and Nicholas Baptiste

Both Bailey and Baptiste are 20 yrs. old and Sabres' picks from the 2013 draft class and both will be riding shotgun with Eichel and Reinhart on the right side. Baptiste plays a strong two-way game and his myriad of shots that he uses to score with. Look for him to be an all-situations, go-to guy. The speedy Bailey packs plenty of size on his 6'3" 195 lb. frame and through his work-ethic is really starting to develop a nice set of hands. Both have finished their junior careers and will begin their trek to the NHL in Rochester this season.

--LHD Brendan Guhle
The 18 yr. old Guhle, who was drafted in the second round (51st overall) of the 2015 draft whom Sabres GM Tim Murray "an incredible athlete who can really skate." At Sabres Development Camp in July the left-handed, more offensive-minded Guhle was paired with Anthony Florentino (2013, 143rd,) a big, hard-hitting, defensive-minded righty. Not sure where Ghule will be on the ice as only one of their nine d-men are right-handed, but no matter where he is, enjoy watching him get up and down the ice.

--RW/LW, Evan Rodrigues
Although he's never said it, nor has he ever been asked, one would thing that Rodrigues is looking to separate himself from Eichel and stand on his own. The pair tore it up in Hockey East last season with many attributing Rodrigues' success to playing with Eichel. It's a fair statement, but he managed to stand out on his own at Development Camp and will likely do the same at the Prospects Challenge. I was amazed at the velocity and accuracy of his shot and the quickness with which he unleashes it.

--C, Georgio Estephan
The 2015 sixth-round pick (152nd) was an underdog at the Development Camp yet managed to raise some eyebrows with his skills and hockey sense. At 6'0" 183 lbs. he has good NHL size and he uses it well. As a sixth-rounder, Estephan is a long-shot, but the Sabres can keep him in the hopper for a number of years while he continues to develop.

--F, Eric Cornel
Cornel's a good-sized, two way forward who can skate very well. He had a six-game taste of pro hockey playing with Rochester to end the season. Cornel will be headed back to the Peterborough Petes of the OHL next season and hopefully he can iron out some of his inconsistencies. For the Prospects Challenge look for Cornel to play a 200' game while, hopefully, hitting the scoresheet.

Of note: G, Linus Ullmark is still rehabbing from double-hip surgery and will be sidelined until later this year.

Missing from the annual prospect tournaments are college players as well as those who are playing overseas. Their gearing up for their respective seasons.

There's a lot of young, highly-skilled talent hitting the ice for the Sabres and no doubt expectations will be pretty high. Winning is the goal, but the main component of events like this is to see how prospects stack up against their peers as they'll be playing them at every level of their hockey career.

For the full roster and schedule, click here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sabres-centric stuff to steer you away from bickering over the Bills

Reprinted with permission from

As sad as it is to see summer begin to fade, but with each passing day hockey season draws nearer. The Buffalo Bills and their preseason exploits have garnered nearly all of the media attention to this point, rightfully so. There are high expectations and an excited fan base. But, it's time to ice the bickering over decisions at One-Bills Drive and begin to turn out attention towards the boys in the Blue and Gold.

It's been a particularly slow off season for GM Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres, so slow that there's been thoughts tossed around that the team should sign free agent defenseman Cody Franson just so hockey fans have something to talk about.

Franson made it back into the consciousness of Sabres fans due to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News saying that he had two sources claiming that Buffalo had offered him a two-year deal. It immediately allowed for a myriad of suggestions as to his impact if it were true. Among the possibilities is that adding Franson would accelerate the Sabres rebuild with some even believing that adding the 28 yr. old right-handed d-man could put the team near playoff contention.

When reading all of this one should be reminded that Murray has been pretty specific as to the types of players, as well as their ages, that he wants to build with. At 28 Franson's just outside Murray's preferred 24-26 yr. old range and one would have to question why the GM would want a player with a questionable compete-level who was benched for the sixth game of their opening round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. No doubt the right-handed Fanson would help the powerplay, but one would really have to question whether or not the team should waste money and a roster spot on a specialist.

But, it's news...I guess.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Catching up with Sabres d-prospect, Anthony Florentino

Reprinted with permission from

It's been about a year since we last chatted with Anthony Florentino. The Providence Friars defenseman and 2013 fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres (143rd overall) was coming off of a solid freshman season where he posted a very respectable five goals and 11 points and was a plus-12. Providence went 22-11-6 that year and defeated Quinnipiac in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament before bowing to eventual champion Union.

That turned out to be the set-up for what was about to transpire this past season.

While on the precipice of the big game in April, Providence head coach Nate Leaman told Nancy Marrapese-Burrell of the Boston Globe about the learning process his team went through over the course of the last year. "It was a great year of learning for our program. When I first took over the program, we didn’t have a guy who had ever played a playoff game. When we get ranked No. 1 preseason in the league, No. 3 in the country, you talk about a lot of things, but we didn’t have one guy in the locker room who had lived through any of those things.

“Obviously, there is a target on your back, but more importantly, what happened to us early in the year is we didn’t play to our identity for a long time. We got away from our identity and I think that is why we were up, we were down. I think that was the hard part."

Providence went into the tournament with an at-large bid then proceeded to win the 2015 NCAA Championship with a stunning 4-3 victory over Jack Eichel and the Boston University Terriers. Also of note is that the Terriers themselves had a remarkable turnaround going from 10 wins in 2013-14 to 28 wins last season thanks in large part to Eichel.