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Mittelstadt pleased with new-look Sabres

Forward optimistic changes will help Buffalo return to playoffs after eight-season absence

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Correspondent

EDINA, Minn. -- Casey Mittelstadt knew the Buffalo Sabres had to make changes after failing to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.

The Sabres hired coach Ralph Krueger to replace Phil Housley, traded for forward Jimmy Vesey and defenseman Henri Jokiharju, and signed free agent forwards Marcus Johansson and Curtis Lazar.

Changes indeed.

"Then there's a lot, a lot, of new faces, which I think will be different, but exciting," Mittelstadt said Wednesday during Da Beauty League, a 3-on-3 summer league in Minnesota that runs through August. "And [as far as coaching], I think everyone's excited for a new voice, a new person behind the bench just to change things up."

 

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Buffalo also retained Jeff Skinner, who could have become an unrestricted free agent. The forward signed an eight-year, $72 million contract (average annual value $9 million) June 7 after he scored an NHL career-high 40 goals and tied a personal best with 63 points.

"I think it all started with getting (Skinner) back," said Mittelstadt, a 20-year-old forward who had 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 77 games. "That's huge for me, especially since he's taught me so much and kind of has taken me under his wing.

Video: Breaking down the Sabres' offseason additions

"We kept a lot of the foundation we had from last year, and the new faces are guys who have been in the playoffs before, so hopefully they can help get us to the next level.

Mittelstadt acknowledged the highs and lows of last season, which included a 10-game winning streak before a sixth-place finish in the Atlantic Division, but one the Sabres can build off this season. 

"The start and the winning streak gave us high hopes," he said. "I think everyone knew you're not going to win 10 games in a row many times, but we hoped we'd hang on for a few games. We lost a lot of one-goal games, a lot of overtime games, and it came back to haunt us.

"Playoffs were the goal last year and they obviously are the goal again this year. I think with consistency, a lot of good changes, a lot of good veteran guys and a lot of new voices should help us out."

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