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Sharpen Up: April 8, 2019

Here's what you need to know before the players' postseason media availability

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

The Sabres will have a new head coach next season. Yesterday afternoon, general manager Jason Botterill relieved Phil Housley of his coaching duties and said during a press conference later on that the search for Buffalo's next bench boss is already underway.

We'll hear from the players today as they clean out their lockers for the summer. Full coverage can be found here on and our social media channels. The Instigators on MSG and WGR 550 will be live from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. today to talk about the season that was and what's ahead for the club.

Here's what you need to know. 


Botterill's press conference


From our recap here on…

Botterill made the decision to relieve Phil Housley of his coaching duties on Sunday morning, a conclusion he said was based on the Sabres' disappointing results in the second half of the season.

"I really enjoyed working with Phil the last couple years," Botterill said. "Phil is a great man. He put a tremendous amount of time and effort into helping this organization. I wish him and his family all the best moving forward. Today certainly wasn't an easy day. But the results in the second half were just not there. We were very inconsistent. 

"Our fans expect more, we expect more. In the end, I thought this decision had to be made for our organization to move forward. We are all responsible for the success and failures of this organization. We are certainly not pleased where we're at and where our results have been this year. We all need to be accountable and not make excuses."

While strides were made in terms of the communication between players and coaches and the culture inside the dressing room, Botterill felt the results ultimately warranted a change. He presented his recommendation to owners Terry and Kim Pegula on Sunday morning. 

"We appreciate Phil Housley's effort over the past two seasons," the Pegulas said in a statement. "He will always be a respected member of the Sabres organization, and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward. We support the decision made by Jason today. 

"It wasn't an easy decision, but we know Jason is operating in the best interests of the organization both short- and long-term. We are confident we share the same vision of bringing winning hockey back to Buffalo, which remains our expectation."

Botterill said he expects to keep his options open in terms of the type of coach the Sabres will hire next. The process will be conducted with input from assistant general managers Steve Greeley and Randy Sexton. Whoever is hired will make a decision on the remainder of the coaching staff.

"We have some very talented, young stars on our team," Botterill said. "When I was hired two years ago, my job was to create a winner here. Not just get to the playoffs one year, but to get to the playoffs on a consistent basis. It's going to be crucial to find the right coach who can help us through that process."

Many other topics were touched on and you can read the full recap here.

NHL Draft Lottery set for Tuesday

Botterill will be on hand for the lottery, which will determine Buffalo's draft position for their own pick. They have another first round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft that is not in the lottery.

Buffalo has an 8.5 percent chance at the first-overall pick. Last year, the Sabres won the lottery and drafted Rasmus Dahlin.

Tweet from @mikemorrealeNHL: Here are your NHL Draft Lottery odds

The 2019 NHL Draft will be held June 21-22 in Vancouver.

A look back at Saturday night

Video: Skinner reaches 40 goals as Sabres rout Red Wings

The Sabres won their final game of the season. From the Lexus Postgame Report…

It took him until the final period of the season, but Jeff Skinner etched his place in Sabres history during the team's 7-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday. 

Skinner scored twice to reach the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career, becoming the 11th player to reach the milestone in a Sabres uniform. The winger had downplayed the possibility in recent days, but his teammates were aware of the stakes.

His linemates, Evan Rodrigues and Kyle Okposo, said as much prior to the game.

"Roddy and Okie were telling me before the game they weren't going to shoot anything," Skinner said. "They were looking for me out there, I saw them. Even some of the plays that didn't go our way, they were maybe sort of forcing it to me."

Video: Skinner after scoring 40th goal

Video: POSTGAME: Dahlin

Video: POSTGAME: Reinhart 

Recognizing he was one goal away, Phil Housley reunited Skinner with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart for a shift in the third period. It worked, with a long possession in the offensive zone paying off when Rasmus Dahlin set up a Skinner shot from the right circle. 

The shot went in off the torso of goalie Kaden Fulcher, making his NHL debut in relief after Howard allowed five goals on 26 shots.

Video: BUF@DET: Skinner nets wrister to hit 40-goal mark

"Everyone wanted to pass him the puck so he could score that goal," Dahlin said. "Luckily, it was me. Congrats to him. It's a great season. He'll probably have a pretty heavy contract next year."

Reinhart quickly collected the puck and brought it to Skinner as a keepsake. Eichel continued to congratulate his winger on the bench, a fitting moment for a duo that put together All-Star campaigns as linemates for much of the season.

"It's nice," Skinner said. "It's something they're a huge part of. I played most of the year with those two guys, and their talent and vision is probably a big part of a lot of those goals."

Amerks are in Cleveland tonight

Following a split of their two games against the Syracuse Crunch over the weekend, the Rochester Americans will take on the Cleveland Monsters tonight at Quicken Loans Arena. Catch the action on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.

Rochester remains three points behind Syracuse for first place in the North Division with four games to go. 

Tweet from @AmerksHockey: 2019 Calder Cup Playoff Tickets ON SALE NOW������������🎟���'s


Frozen Four is this week

There's still hockey to be played at KeyBank Center. The Frozen Four is in town starting on Wednesday. 

Tickets for Thursday's semifinal games and Saturday's NCAA championship game are on sale now.

The lineup of events features several free opportunities for fans such as open practices, Frozen Fest, the Hobey Baker Award Presentation, and an ESPN/USCHO radio event at (716) Food and Sport. 

Wednesday, April 10
Open Practices at KeyBank Center
11 a.m.: Providence
12:15 p.m.: Minnesota Duluth
1:30 p.m.: Massachusetts 
2:45 p.m.: Denver
Thursday, April 11
2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Frozen Fest & Team Arrivals at Alumni Plaza
3:30 p.m.: KeyBank Center Doors Open (session ticket required)
5 p.m.: National Semifinal: Minnesota Duluth vs. Providence 
8:30 p.m.: National Semifinal: Massachusetts vs. Denver
Friday, April 12
3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: NCAA Autograph Sessions at Harborcenter - Level 7
4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Championship Awards Presentation Ceremony on Harborcenter's KeyBank Rink 1
6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.: Hobey Baker Award Presentation - Live on NHL Network on Harborcenter's KeyBank Rink 1
6:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.: ESPN/USCHO Radio Event with John Buccigross & Barry Melrose at (716) Food and Sport
Saturday, April 13
3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Frozen Fest & Team Arrivals at Alumni Plaza
6:30 p.m.: KeyBank Center Doors Open (ticket required)
8 p.m.: National Championship Game 

Full details are available here.

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