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Kane impressing with pace, work ethic at Sabres camp

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Phil Housley said at the outset of training camp that he was excited to coach Evander Kane. Now nearly two weeks in, he's liked what he's seen. 

"I think he's been a terrific pro," Housley said after practice on Monday. "He comes to work and he's had a terrific attitude, working hard in practices and he's trying to get himself ready. I respect his work ethic."

It's no accident, then, that Kane has worn an "A" in each of the two exhibition games he's played in, putting his name on a list of Sabres who have worn letters this preseason that also includes Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo and Jack Eichel, among others. 

He's only 25, but Kane is entering eighth season in the NHL and his third with the Sabres. Housley is the sixth coach he's played for. He's a veteran by all of those standards, and he's made an honest effort under the new coaching staff to set an example on the ice.

It's been easy, he said, in part of because of Housley's transparency. 

"I think Phil's done a really good job of keeping things open, keeping the dialogue open with everybody, keeping things short and sweet and to the point," Kane said. "I think that makes it real easy, when everybody understands what's going on and what the goal is."

It also helps that was Housley's asking from the Sabres falls directly in line with Kane's greatest strengths, which are aggressiveness and speed. He's been one of the players pushing the pace in practice, and his aggressiveness led to two drawn penalties against Toronto on Saturday.

"Seeing him this year, he's playing with pace both ways on the ice and that's huge," Sam Reinhart, who played on a line with Kane in that game, said. "Everything we're kind of looking toward is pace defensively that's going to lead to and create our offense. It's starting with him and going through the whole team."

That includes setting an example for younger players like Justin Bailey and Nicholas Baptiste, two players who possess similar combinations of speed and size.

"I think he's come in with a different mentality this year," Bailey said. "He's obviously working hard in practice but he's more vocal day in and day out. I think it's great to see. Everyone's pulling together and I think our team has come together pretty quickly so it's great to see guys like him step up."

Fresh starts have been a theme of this training camp, with Housley stressing the idea of coming in with a clean slate to his players. Following an offseason in which his name came up mostly in trade speculation, it seems Kane is making the most of his.

"It's very important to be able to lead by example," Kane said. "There's definitely other ways to lead but I think first and foremost, you have to lead by example. For me, that's just what I'm trying to do."


Power-play practice

Video: Sabres Now (9/26/17)

The Sabres practiced with their full power-play units on Tuesday, and it seems for now like the group that drove their No. 1 ranked power play last year is going to stay together. That unit comprises of Eichel, Reinhart, Okposo, O'Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen.

While the Sabres led the NHL with a 24.5 percent conversion rate on the power play last season, Reinhart said he still sees room for growth.

"Looking at stats, it doesn't always do it justice," Reinhart said. "We feel there's a lot we can improve on. One of those things is timing, knowing situations a little bit better. You can go 50 percent through two weeks and then the timing the next week, when it's really important, may not be there. So you've got to be really consistent."

Buffalo's second unit consisted of Kane, Jason Pominville, Zach Bogosian and Nathan Beaulieu, with Matt Moulson and Zemgus Girgensons alternating as the fifth man down low.  


Fedun leaves with injury

Video: Phil Housley After Practice (9/26/17)

Taylor Fedun was forced to leave practice early after taking a puck off of his ear while he attempted to block a shot.  

"I'm sure he probably had to take a couple stitches," Housley said. "It's unfortunate, but that's hockey. He laid down to block a puck and he plays like he practices, so it was unfortunate."

The Sabres are already practicing without Jake McCabe, who is week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Without McCabe and Fedun, the Sabres have eight healthy defensemen at camp. 


Lines at practice

9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
67 Benoit Pouliot - 23 Sam Reinhart - 93 Justin Bailey
26 Matt Moulson - 22 Johan Larsson - 13 Nicholas Baptiste
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 10 Jacob Josefson - 25 Seth Griffith

6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 47 Zach Bogosian
93 Victor Antipin - 27 Taylor Fedun
4 Josh Gorges - 5 Matt Tennyson
41 Justin Falk - 38 Cody Goloubef 

40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson
35 Linus Ullmark

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