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Cozens practices as Sabres prepare for Prospects Challenge

Center will be in the lineup against New Jersey on Friday

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

 Update (8:02 p.m.) - The Sabres have announced that Dylan Cozens has been cleared to play in the Prospects Challenge. He will be in the lineup against the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

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Dylan Cozens was a full participant in practice on Thursday as the Sabres took the ice in preparation for this weekend's Prospects Challenge at Harborcenter. 

Cozens, Buffalo's pick with the seventh overall selection in this summer's draft, was left off the team's initial roster for the event as he recovered from a procedure on his left thumb. He had been wearing a red no-contact jersey at informal skates prior to Thursday. 

"I think it's feeling normal right now, just being with the guys again, going out, practicing, being treated like another normal player," he said. "Not wearing a red jersey, I think that's big. I'm feeling good right now."

The Sabres will re-evaluate Cozens and decide on his status for the Prospects Challenge in advance of their meeting with No. 1 pick Jack Hughes and the New Jersey Devils on Friday. 

Though Cozens did admit it would be fun to match up with Hughes, whom he befriended throughout the draft process, it did not sway his stance on assuring he remained cautious with his injury. 

"I'm not really focusing on other guys," he said. "I'm focusing on myself. I want to go out there and play because I feel good, not go out and play because I want to play against Jack Hughes. I want to go out and play because I love the game of hockey and I want to get back on the ice."

Video: SABRES IN :50

Cozens has said throughout the offseason that he'll respect the Sabres' plan for him this season, whether it's to begin his pro career as an 18-year-old or return to his junior team in Lethbridge. His focus for main camp, he said, is to keep things simple.

"I'm kind of just focused on getting back to 100 percent and the Prospects Challenge this weekend," he said. "But I'm just going to go in there and go in with confidence and just play my game, stick to my game. Don't go out there trying too hard to impress, just do what I do and stick to my game."

Here are more notes from Thursday's Prospects Challenge practice. 

 

Taylor expects improvement from second-year pros

Rochester coach Chris Taylor is leading the Sabres prospects this weekend, and he's expecting big things from the players who got a taste of pro hockey with the Amerks last season. That group includes Rasmus Asplund, William Borgen, Andrew Oglevie, and Victor Olofsson.

"They had a really good year," Taylor said. "We need them to take the next step. That's big for them. I think they trained very hard. You look at all of them, I thought all of them looked a little bit bigger, a little bit more mature. Even on the ice, they just look a little bit different. More mature."

Olofsson in particular figures to have a strong chance at making Buffalo's roster out of camp. The winger led the Amerks with 30 goals and 63 points last season, then tallied four points in six NHL games skating on a line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. 

Video: OTT@BUF: Olofsson rips one-timer past Daccord for PPG

How did a seventh-round pick in 2014 go on to lead the SHL in goals, then score 30 in his first North American season? According to Taylor, Olofsson's work ethic sets him apart.

"He's very coachable, most important thing," Taylor said. "He acknowledges his things he needs to work on, and he worked on them hard. His work ethic was superior and that's why he kept on getting better and that's why I kept on using him in penalty killing at the end, because of his hockey smarts. 

"He really wanted to kill and get extra ice time and he deserved it. He's one of those guys who just wanted to be on the ice and be that guy in every different situation. When you're that coachable, it's easy to improve."

Though Olofsson admitted to feeling more comfortable this season with a year of North American hockey on his resume, he knows he has another battle to win before his NHL dream is fulfilled.

"It helped me a lot to get those games last year heading into this year," he said. "I feel like I've got to fight for my spot. There's tough competition. There are a lot of bodies here, so I've just got to do my best."

 

Playing with speed

Though one day of practice doesn't leave much room for teaching, the Sabres did convey a couple basic tenets of new coach Ralph Krueger's system to their prospects in advance of Friday's game: play fast and play hard. 

"Style-wise, we're looking at playing a very fast-tempo game, always moving, always active," Taylor said. "We don't want to sit back at any moment. We're going to change a lot of different things and I think you're going to see that tomorrow. I think it's an exciting way to play."

That style should suit defenseman Henri Jokiharju, who will make his Sabres debut this weekend after being acquired from Chicago during the offseason. 

"I think it will be a fast game style in Buffalo," Jokiharju said. "I think that brings more offense and, of course, offense from the defense. Everyone wants to play more offense." 

 

Lines at practice

68 Victor Olofsson - 74 Rasmus Asplund - 52 Andrew Oglevie
73 Matej Pekar - 42 Dylan Cozens - 93 Lukas Rousek
84 Sebastian Vidmar - 25 Arttu Ruotsalainen - 76 Pascal Aquin
75 Bobby MacIntyre - 57 Brett Murray - 82 Kyle Olson
80 John Wiitala - 59 Stephen Harper 

78 Jacob Bryson - 10 Henri Jokiharju
44 Brandon Hickey - 3 William Borgen
56 Kurt Gosselin - 45 Casey Fitzgerald
61 Devante Stephens / 83 Justin Baudry - 70 Tobie Bisson

34 Jonas Johansson 
60 Matthew Welsh

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