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Sharpen Up: June 19, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

It's been pretty busy around these parts. Let's get right to it.

Here's what you need to know.


But first, Breaking News... The preseason schedule is out!

Buffalo opens up its six-game exhibtion slate on Sept. 18 against Carolina at KeyBank Center. The Sabres will also host the Penguins at Penn State and play a home-and-home against Toronto. Check out the full schedule here.


Housley in the house

General manager Jason Botterill announced on Thursday at Phil Housley will serve as the 18th head coach in franchise history. Housley, a Hall of Fame defenseman who started his illustrious career as an 18-year-old phenom with the Sabres, will look to improve the team both on and off the ice. 

That will come from (among other things) up-tempo practices that will hopefully translate into a faster style of play, and from connecting with the players on a personal level to develop strong lines of communication. 

"I want to be rubbing shoulders with the players because I understand what they're going through, and I think that's one of the biggest assets that I have is going through the battles with them," he said. 

"There's a fine line obviously with the head coach and the message, you've got to be firm, but I think if you can get in there with them and be a part of something, I think that's the one thing I learned, that they'll play for you."

Housley said he learned a lot during his four seasons as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators under Barry Trotz and Peter Laviolette. He spoke about that and what the Preds run to the Stanley Cup Final this spring meant in a sit-down with Brian Duff:

Video: Phil Housley 1-on-1 (6/15/17)

For your reading pleasure, we have more on Housley's background here.

If you missed the full press conference, we've got it here for you:


If you don't remember Housley's career with the Sabres in the '80s (or just want to watch some sweet highlights), check this out:

Video: Phil Housley Highlights

We reposted his thoughts from when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year if you're looking for something else to read this morning. 



The NHL Expansion Draft will take place on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET during the NHL Awards. The Sabres protected the following players who did not meet rules for exemption: 

Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo

Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen

Goaltender: Robin Lehner

Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, of course, aren't available so hopefully you didn't freak out for a quick second there. All first- and second-year professionals (and all unsigned draft picks) were exempt from selection and didn't have to be protected. 

These are the other players who were exempt:

Forwards: Rasmus Asplund, Justin Bailey, Nicholas Baptiste, Christopher Brown, Eric Cornel, Jean Dupuy, Hudson Fasching, Vasily Glotov, Brandon Hagel, Connor Hurley, Vaclav Karabacek, Sean Malone, Brett Murray, Alexander Nylander, Victor Olofsson, Judd Peterson, Cliff Pu, Evan Rodrigues, C.J. Smith, Maxwell Willman

Defensemen: Victor Antipin, William Borgen, Vojtech Budik, Erik Burgdoerfer, Ivan Chukarov, Casey Fitzgerald, Brendan Guhle, Brycen Martin, Casey Nelson, Philip Nyberg, Austin Osmanski, Devante Stephens

Goaltenders: Jonas Johansson, Jason Kasdorf, Cal Petersen 

Wait, Nathan Beaulieu?

Yes, Nathan Beaulieu. The Sabres acquired the 24-year-old defenseman from the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday for a third-round pick ahead of the roster freeze. 

He spoke with the media on a conference call and you should check out our recap of that to get to know him a little bit better. It's safe to say that he's happy to be here.

Here's a sampling, courtesy of's own Jourdon LaBarber:

Jason Botterill said upon his introduction as general manager that adding puck-moving defensemen to the roster would be a priority. After already adding Victor Antipin earlier in the offseason, Botterill made another defensive acquisition on Saturday in the form of Nathan Beaulieu. 

The Sabres acquired Beaulieu from the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, just prior to the 3 p.m. roster freeze, in exchange for a third-round pick in next weekend's NHL Draft. 

New Sabres coach Phil Housley, a Hall of Fame puck-moving defenseman in his own right, said defensemen will be involved in the attack in his system. A conversation with Housley had Beaulieu excited when he spoke to the media on Sunday. 

"I'm so excited because the style of play he wants to put forth is going to fit right into my game," he said. "I've got a huge opportunity here to really grow my game with a guy who played the game similar to how I would like to play."

So where does Beaulieu fit? The Sabres now have five left-shot defensemen under contract for next season: Beaulieu, Antipin, Justin Falk, Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe. Brendan Guhle is also expected to compete for a spot in camp next season.

Wherever he fits in that mix, expect Beaulieu to be a relied-upon player for the Sabres. He played the fourth-most minutes at 5-on-5 for a Montreal team that won the Atlantic Division last season, while averaging 1:39 on the power play and 00:58 shorthanded. 

Beaulieu also was plus-29 in shot attempts for the season and was on the ice for 37.06 percent of Montreal's goals at 5-on-5 (in games he played). That latter number ranked third on the team.


And on top of all this, the NHL Draft is this week will be in Chicago starting on Wednesday to provide you with all the info you need heading into Friday's Round One. 

We've been providing you with some tidbits each day about the draft, including profiles of Kris Baker's Top 31, 1-on-1 interviews and other features. We've got some cool stuff cooking for you this week so make sure you're locked in. 

Prospect Avenue, one of my favorite series each year, is back for a second season and we'll be debuting Episode 3 today, focusing on notable players who could be taken later in the first round. 

If you missed the first two episodes, which tackle forwards and defensemen who could be available when Buffalo is on the clock at No. 8, here they are:

Video: Prospect Avenue is back for a second season

Video: Prospect Avenue: Defensemen at 8? 

You know what? Just bookmark and you won't miss a thing.

Today, we also look at center Casey Mittelstadt, who is No. 3 on Baker's countdown. 

On tap this week

The Expansion Draft results will be announced during the NHL Awards on Wednesday, so we'll have reaction to that. And we'll be in Chicago for the Draft and hopefully you already know we'll have full written and video coverage as it happens from United Center. 

It'll be a crazy week and there might be a few surprises along the way as well, but we really wouldn't have it any other way. 


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