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Hockeyville USA

Ryan O'Reilly, Jeff Skinner go back to school

Buffalo center, Carolina forward meet with students before Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016 preseason game

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

MARQUETTE, Mich. -- Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly and Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner got to relieve a bit of their childhoods Tuesday.

They took part in a question-and-answer session with students at Bothwell Middle School before playing in a floor hockey game with some lucky participants.

The Sabres and Hurricanes are in Marquette to play a preseason game Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN) as part of Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016. Marquette, the winning community, also received $150,000 in upgrades for Lakeview Arena.

"It was a great time," O'Reilly said. "Obviously it's a great town and you can tell they love hockey. For us to be able to do this and be a part of Hockeyville, it's a great thing for us. The kids had a great time out there."

O'Reilly and Skinner each told the students how their passion for hockey started and alternated answering questions. O'Reilly was asked about his worst injury; he said he had lost a tooth, and removed a fake tooth to show the students. Skinner was asked if he ever had been to Disneyland (he had).

Video: Kraft Hockeyville Referee Clinic in Marquette, MI

"I think we'd both rather be on the ice than answering questions," said O'Reilly, 25, who had 21 goals and led the Sabres with 60 points last season.

Skinner, 24, won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL in 2010-11, when he had 31 goals and 63 points. He led the Hurricanes in goals (28) and points (51) last season. Skinner said he was overwhelmed by the greeting from the hundreds of fans who turned out to see the teams when they arrived at Lakeview Arena.

"Coming here, we knew that this was going to be a big event in the town and I think it sort of proved to be just that," he said. "The energy even here has been top-notch, and I am excited to see the game tonight and the turnout for that."

O'Reilly and Skinner then took part in a floor hockey game with several students, with the Sabres' and Hurricanes' mascots in goal. At one point the school principal sent O'Reilly off for interference.

"I'd say so," O'Reilly joked when asked if it was the worst penalty he'd ever taken. "Definitely. At the time of the game, I let the team down and I can't be doing that."

Before leaving, each player received a shirt signed by all the students at the school.

"That was really cool," O'Reilly said. "To have all them sign it is pretty special. A little memento from coming to this."

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