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Sharpen Up: January 2, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

The Buffalo Sabres were back on the ice yesterday for a New Year's Day practice after a disappointing loss in Boston on Saturday. The Sabres went 5-6-3 last month, are 3-5-2 over the last 10 and they're losing ground in the standings. 

They'll practice again this morning at KeyBank Center before heading out a two-game trip that will see them face the Rangers and the Blackhawks on the road. Both games will air on NBCSN. 

Here's what you need to know.

Jack Eichel made his frustrations known after Saturday's loss and yesterday, he made it clear that he isn't alone when it comes to wanting to right the ship and being willing to do whatever it takes to get back in the win column, injuries and other excuses be damned.

Video: Sabres in :90 (1/1/17) 

Check out Eichel's full comments here.

And while they may have lost twice to the Bruins last week, the Sabres are still focused on the playoff chase and getting back into the hunt.

"We had opportunities both before the break and the two games against Boston and we let them slip away," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said said. "At the same time, you have 46 games left in the season. We know if we play how we can and we win hockey games at the rate we can, it'll put us in the 90-point [range] - that area where we think we're going to need to be in playoff contention. 

"That's really got to be the focus for us here … We have to realize the situation we're in now and we've got win 60 percent of our points the rest of the way out for sure."

Video: BYLSMA: After Practice

Injury update

Buffalo went from an almost fully healthy squad a week ago to one that is once again battling injuries to key players. Johan Larsson, injured in Saturday's game after dislocating his left elbow and wrist in a nasty crash into the boards, will be out long term, according to Bylsma. As of yesterday, he was still receiving treatment in a Boston hosplital.  

Ryan O'Reilly is also out after undergoing an appendectomy over the holiday break, but there might be some good news on the horizon.
As our very own Jourdon LaBarber reported yesterday:

William Carrier returned to practice after missing the game in Boston on Saturday with a hand injury, while Tyler Ennis skated without a red no-contact jersey for the first time. Ennis did not, however, participate in 5-on-5 battle drills at the end of practice.

Video: CARRIER: After Practice

Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Josh Gorges (hip) were both absent, leaving former defenseman Nicolas Deslauriers to fill in on a pair with Zach Bogosian during drills. Bylsma did not have an update on Kulikov, but said Gorges might be able to return to practice on Monday.

Robin Lehner was also absent for a maintenance day.


World Juniors update

After a day off, the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship will start back up today with quarterfinal play. If you missed anything from Saturday's games (in which Sweden and the U.S. clinched the top seed in each pool), Kris Baker has you covered.

Today's schedule featuring Sabres prospects:

3:30 p.m. - Slovakia vs. Sweden (Alexander Nylander and Rasmus Asplund)
Buffalo's top two picks in this past draft have been outstanding in the tournament so far. Nylander (first round, eighth overall) leads the tournament in scoring with nine points (4+5) through four games while Asplund (33rd overall) has three points (1+2) and has demonstrated the ability to play a complete, 200-foot game. 

5:30 p.m. - Switzerland vs. USA (Casey Fitzgerald)
Through four games, Fitzgerald, a third rounder in 2016 (86th overall), has been a steady presence on the U.S. blue line, recording three assists. 

8 p.m. - Czech Republic (Vojtech Budik) vs. Canada
Budik was added to the Czech roster as an injury replacement for Saturday's game against Sweden. The defenseman, a fifth-round pick in 2016 (130th overall), skated 9:56 in his tournament debut.

The SUI/USA and CZE/CAN games will be shown live on NHL Network.


On tap today

Stick with us for full practice coverage. Then we're off to New York as the Sabres prepare to take on the Rangers tomorrow night. That game is slated to begin at 7 p.m. on NBCSN. 

Kris Baker will then have a recap of the action at the World Junior tournament for you later tonight.

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