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Sharpen Up: January 4, 2017

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Justin Bailey said Tuesday that scoring his first NHL goal was something that had been on his mind for the entire summer. Having grown up in Williamsville, it's hard to imagine that one day scoring a goal for the hometown team hasn't at least in the back of his mind for his entire life. 

Bailey lived his dream on Tuesday. He scored his first NHL goal in Madison Square Garden, of all places, against Henrik Lundqvist, of all goaltenders. He has linemate Evander Kane to thank for it; it was Kane's forecheck pressure that forced Rangers Kevin Klein to make an errant pass that would wind up on Bailey's stick with room to move in the offensive zone.

 Bailey picked his head up, saw space between Lundqvist's pads, and went for it. You can watch the result below.

Video: BUF@NYR: Bailey beats Lundqvist for first NHL goal

"I think I played well last game and brought it today and had chances early," Bailey said. "I've been trying to do little things early, get a little bit of confidence and let my skills take over later in the game."

A handful of former Sabres who Bailey met along the way sent out congratulatory tweets after he scored.

Tweet from @JayMcKee74: Congrats to @OHLRangers alum, @JustinBailey95 on his first @NHL goal with the @BuffaloSabres ! First of many to come!

Tweet from @MattBarnaby3636: Congrats @JustinBailey95 . Glad u took notes all summer as I glided up the ice and scored goal after goal. #hardworkpaysoff

Tweet from @EllisMatt37: Always great to see hard work and opportunity meet! Congrats on the first of many @JustinBailey95

While the goal was the first in Bailey's young career, it was also the third scored for the Sabres in an important 4-1 win over the New York Rangers. Kane, Zemgus Girgensons and Jack Eichel also scored for the Sabres, while Anders Nilsson picked up the win with 24 saves. Chris Ryndak was on hand at MSG and has the full written recap.

Meanwhile, you can hear from Sabres coach Dan Bylsma - who said it was his team's best third-period performance of the season while playing with a lead - as well as Eichel and Nilsson below.

Video: BYLSMA: Postgame Interview

Video: EICHEL: Postgame Interview

Video: NILSSON: Postgame Interview


Today at World Juniors

It's semifinal day at the World Junior Championship, and both games involve Sabres prospects:

3 p.m. - Russia vs. USA (Casey Fitzgerald)
Fitzgerald, a third-round pick by the Sabres this past summer, has three assists in five wins for undefeated Team USA. A win against Russia would set up one of two interesting matchups in the Gold Medal Game: either a date against fellow Sabres prospects Alex Nylander and Rasmus Asplund of Sweden or a rematch with rival Canada.

7:30 p.m. - Canada vs. Sweden (Alexander Nylander and Rasmus Asplund)
Nylander, Buffalo's selection with the eighth overall pick this past summer, is the tournament leader with 11 points (5+6). Asplund, a second-round pick, ranks third on Team Sweden with seven points (1+6) after a four-assist outing against Slovakia.

Sweden is undefeated in the tournament, while Canada's only loss came against Team USA on New Year's Eve.

Kris Baker of will have a full written recap following the day of action.

Also, if you're enjoying this year's tournament, it's not too late topurchase your ticket package for the 2018 World Junior Championship in Buffalo and ensure a spot at the outdoor game between Team USA and Canada. 


On Tap

The Sabres will practice in Chicago this afternoon, and Chris Ryndak and Brian Duff will be on hand with complete coverage.  

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