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Sharpen Up: All the Sabres news you need to know on January 6, 2020

Players took part in the Skills Challenge yesterday, Next game is set for Thursday

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

The Buffalo Sabres had a busy weekend and enjoyed a lot of positive experiences. They beat Florida on Saturday and then came to the rink Sunday morning with their families for the second annual Sabres Skills Challenge. 

Here's what you need to know. 


Skills Challenge highlights

Video: Sabres in :50 - Skills Challenge Highlights

From our recap of the event…

For all the elite talent on display inside KeyBank Center on Sunday, it was a 5-year-old who stole the show.

Kyle Okposo's son, Odin, joined the Sabres players on the ice for the second annual Skills Challenge presented by New Era and quickly became a fan favorite. He scored a couple goals of on Linus Ullmark and hoisted the trophy with his dad after Okposo's Team Campbell won the event.

"It was pretty cool," Okposo said. "He doesn't really understand that a ton of people are watching him and whatever, but he had the time of his life. Yeah, a pretty special day for me."

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: That's a wrap on this year's Skills Challenge!Team Campbell takes the W. 🏆#Sabres50

In a way, the fun for the Okposo family encapsulated what the Skills Challenge has been about since making its debut last season. It's a time for players to take a break from the grind of an 82-game schedule and interact with fans and each other in a loose atmosphere.  

This year's edition saw Ullmark try his hand at the hardest shot competition and Rasmus Asplund take a shootout attempt with a mini stick. Players dressed in commemorative orange and white jerseys replicating those worn during the 1978 NHL All-Star Game in Buffalo, which will be available for auction beginning tomorrow.

"It's just nice, I think, for the fans to kind of see us just more candid and that's just kind of how we are. We just joke around," Okposo said. "I think it was pretty special for the fans to get a glimpse into that. The kids just looked like they had a ton of fun in the stands just cheering us on. It was just a really special day."

Check out a photo gallery of the event's happenings here.

For a full breakdown of the Sabres Skills Challenge, you can read the full recap here. 

Looking back at Saturday night's win

Video: Reinhart, Ullmark help Sabres edge Panthers, 3-2

From the Postgame Report…

Ralph Krueger said it would take a committee approach to scoring and a consistent discipline on defense for the Buffalo Sabres to succeed while Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson recover from injuries. 

They displayed both of those qualities, along with strong special teams and more steady play from goaltender Linus Ullmark, in a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers at KeyBank Center on Saturday. 

The Sabres scored three goals on their first seven shots - from Henri Jokiharju, Conor Sheary, and Sam Reinhart - to chase Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky at 5:42 of the second period. They finished the afternoon 1-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. 

Video: POSTGAME: Krueger

Video: Sam Reinhart on the postgame show 

The victory was Buffalo's second in a row to open the New Year. 

"Guys stepped up," alternate captain Marcus Johansson said. "We did what we had to do. It's going to be tough without [Olofsson], he's been one of our best players all year. But you go to fight through that and hopefully we'll come out stronger. It was a good start to get two points today."

Olofsson, who ranks second on the Sabres with 16 goals, is expected to miss five to six weeks with a lower-body injury. Skinner is eight days into his recovery from an upper-body injury with a recovery timetable of three to four weeks. 

Playing their first game without both players, the Sabres were able to generate offense from different areas. Sam Reinhart led the way with a power-play goal and an assist, giving him 14 points (5+9) in his last 15 games. 

Video: POSTGAME: Sheary

Video: POSTGAME: Johansson 

The line of Sheary, Johansson, and Jimmy Vesey also continued to have an offensive presence after combining for three goals against Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Johansson created multiple chances with his skating in the first period, including a 2-on-1 rush that saw his pass attempt to Sheary stopped by Bobrovsky. 

The trio delivered when they had another chance on an odd-man rush early in the second. Vesey made a play along the wall to spring Johansson into the offensive zone with two defenders trailing, then Johansson delivered a backhand pass to Sheary under the stick of defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

"We feed off each other," Sheary said of his chemistry with Johansson. "I think he likes to play with a lot of speed, as do I. We play a lot of give-and-goes, and with (Vesey) working out there, too, I think our line just has some good chemistry right now."

Video: FLA@BUF: Sheary, Johansson team up to double lead

Johansson finished the contest with two assists, extending his point streak to a season-best four games. 

"I think Marcus of late has gotten some confidence," Krueger said. "His goal the other day and just generally the play over the last few weeks after the Christmas break, he feels freer somehow. It's really important for us to get him on his game. 

"He can create. He takes and consumes the opposition with his skating and his puck-handling ability that other doors open up like it did with Conor tonight. We need to keep him moving, he needs to keep that skating game alive because it's a completely different type of attack than we have with the Eichel line. It's good to have a little bit of a varied approach to scoring goals."

You can read the full recap here. 

The Sabres will return to practice tomorrow. They're next game is in St. Louis when they play the Blues on Thursday. Coverage on MSG begins at 7:30 p.m., or you can listen on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 8.

'90s Night rewind

Video: '90s Night Video Open

The Sabres welcomed back nearly two dozen alumni from the 1990s as part of the team's Golden Season celebration. The team turned back the clocks with red-and-black-themed scoring graphics and music. Yes, that was "Song 2" by Blur as the throwback goal song. 

Video: FLA@BUF: Sabres pay tribute to 90s alumni in ceremony

Check out exclusive interviews from the broadcast with Jay McKee, Pierre Turgeon and Rick Vaive:

Video: Jay McKee Broadcast Interview

Video: Pierre Turgeon Broadcast Interview

Video: Sabres alumnus Rick Vaive pregame interview


Cozens wins gold

Tweet from @IIHFHockey: 🇨🇦🚨 @Dylan_Cozens gets the rebound in front of the net and @HC_WJC ties things up 1-1! #WorldJuniors @buffalosabres

With Team Canada's 4-3 victory over Team Russia at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship on Sunday in the Czech Republic, Buffalo Sabres prospect Dylan Cozens is a gold-medal winner.

Cozens, Buffalo's top pick (seventh overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft, scored Canada's first goal of the championship game to tie it 1-1 with 8:58 left in the second period. He also added five shots in 17:24 of ice time.

In his first World Junior Championship, Cozens recorded nine points (2+7) in seven games. The 18-year-old center is currently having a big year with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL, where he has 20 goals and 46 points in 30 games.

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