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Sharpen Up: January 10, 2019

Here's what you need to know heading into your Thursday

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

The Sabres return to practice today, two days after their 5-1 win over the Devils on home ice. We'll see if Jack Eichel is ready to make the trip to Carolina as he recovers from an upper-body injury. 

Buffalo is set to play the Hurricanes tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. in the first half of a back-to-back set that ends on Saturday when the Sabres host Tampa at KeyBank Center.

Here's what you need to know.

 

Vote for Skinner

NHL.com/Vote is the place to be until midnight. 

Tweet from @Sabretooth_NHL: "Jeff Skinner isn't an All-Star..."VOTE SKINS: https://t.co/xeHXLkNjCd pic.twitter.com/hRdsgJu7As

 

Wilson getting up to speed in Rochester

Forward Scott Wilson cleared waivers yesterday and will see some time with the Amerks as he continues to work his way back from ankle surgery that was required during the last week of the preseason.

Our very own Brian Duff happened to be in Rochester yesterday and filed this report after Wilson's first practice…

It took all of about five seconds for Wilson to score during the first line rush with Kevin Porter and Wayne Simpson, followed immediately by some hoots and hollers.

"Last time I was in the American league I used to score a lot of goals so I'm hoping that will come back a little bit," Wilson, whose previous AHL time came with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from 2014-2016, said.

His numbers with those Penguins: 41 goals and 77 points in 90 American Hockey League games. With C.J. Smith up with the Sabres, Wilson's presence could help offset that loss.

Tweet from @AmerksHockey: WATCH | ���Half the battle when joining a new team is knowing guys. I pretty much know all the guys, whether it was our hockey in the past or meeting them during training camp. It definitely is a good group here.���Newcomer, @smiltztwo3 , after his first #Amerks practice. pic.twitter.com/GdV6Toikw7

"It's good to have him and his leadership around," Amerks coach Chris Taylor said. "He's got a great shot. He's a great penalty killer, and a great person. He'll support the young guys and he wants to help the team win games, it's not about him. He's unselfish."

As for how long he might be in Rochester, it's way too early to tell.

"You never know, honestly. There will come a point…I don't think it will come after two or three games," he said "…It;s gonna come a little bit longer than that and up until this point, it's been on my own regard with how I'm feeling. So it's kind of just a feeling out process.

"Obviously I want to be a part of it [within the Sabres organization]. They made it clear to me, too, that a lot of times when you throw somebody on waivers, it's trying to get rid of them and they made that clear that that wasn't the case. I'm just excited to be back here and have some fun playing hockey."

Read the full story here.


A chat with Laaksonen

We talked to defensive prospect Oskari Laaksonen (third round, 2017), fresh off his gold-medal performance with Team Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in this week's Prospects Update. Here's a quick look at the conversation:

When you were drafted, you had never played for the Finnish national team. Back then, would you have thought this was possible? 
Well, yeah. My goal was to be in these World Juniors. That was my goal that I set when I was drafted. I just worked hard. The Sabres drafting me kind of opened up some eyes for the national team coaches.

In your opinion, what's made Finnish hockey so successful recently, whether it's international competition or developing NHL players?
I think our junior work has been pretty good lately. We've had some pretty good teams at World Juniors. Although we're a small country, I think we have pretty good young players coming every year. I think that's the key, developing young players. It's getting rewarded now. 

You're leading your Liiga team in average ice time this season (at 20:47). What's been the challenge in that? Have you embraced it?
I've had a pretty good start to this season. Off of that, I've been keeping it loose and playing my own game. The coaches have been liking that, so I've gotten much responsibility. Obviously, I like that. I've just got to keep working hard and go to the ice whenever coach needs me. It's been a good, healthy year that way.

Read the full Q&A here.

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