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Sharpen Up: October 4, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

We're one day away from the beginning of the 2017-18 season and you've probably heard the big news by now. Jack Eichel has agreed to terms on an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $10 million. That'll keep him in a Sabres uniform for nine more seasons.

Here's what you need to know.

Video: Eichel's here to stay

Eichel led the Sabres with 57 points (24+33) in 61 games during the 2016-17 season, also finishing 11th in the NHL with 0.93 points per game and leading the league with 4.1 shots per game. That's pretty good.

In leading the Sabres in points, Eichel became just the fourth player in franchise history to lead the team in points before turning 21, joining Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Pierre Turgeon (his 21st birthday is on Oct. 28). Pretty, pretty good.

Since entering the NHL in 2015-16, Eichel ranks second among Sabres players with 113 points (48+65) in 142 career games. In his career, the Sabres are 41-21-6 when he records a point and 22-5-1 when he records at least two points in a game. That's actually really good. 

Stick with us throughout the day for news on the Eichel extension, his and the front office's reactions, and anything else that may come up. That's what we're here for. 

It's OK to talk about other players too

Video: Sabres Now (10/3/17)

Jake McCabe was back at it with the club yesterday, practicing for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury in Buffalo's preseason game against Toronto on Sept. 22. 

Not practicing? Zach Bogosian (day-to-day) and Justin Falk (who was placed on injured reserve later on).

Those changes meant that Buffalo practiced with seven defensemen and led to some new pairings. Nathan Beaulieu skated with Rasmus Ristolainen, McCabe was on the left of Victor Antipin and Marco Scandella practiced both with Matt Tennyson and Josh Gorges. 

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Housley

Scandella did not play in any preseason games as he works his way back from off-season hip surgery, but there's reason for optimism when it comes to his availability Thursday night.

"Marco's been doing great," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We said it was going to be a process with him and his progress is going in a great direction. These last two practices were pretty intense, there was a lot of battle but he looked great out there so that's promising."

For more on practice as well as new additions to the second power-play unit, check out the Ice Level Practice Report. 

We'll have more from practice later this morning.

The opening night roster is finalized 

Yesterday afternoon, the Sabres sent forwards Sean Malone and Alexander Nylander to the Rochester Americans. Both were dealing with injuries that caused them to miss the entirety of training camp. 

Evan Rodrigues and Falk will start the season on IR, putting the Sabres at 23 players (13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders).

Here were the lines and pairings (if you skipped reading the section containing Sabres Now) from practice: 

9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
67 Benoit Pouliot - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 23 Sam Reinhart - 25 Seth Griffith
22 Johan Larsson / 26 Matt Moulson - 10 Jacob Josefson - 17 Jordan Nolan

82 Nathan Beaulieu - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
19 Jake McCabe - 93 Victor Antipin
6 Marco Scandella - 5 Matt Tennyson / 4 Josh Gorges

40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson

Party in the Plaza tomorrow 

A Party in the Plaza presented by KeyBank will take place tomorrow night in Alumni Plaza from 5 to 7 p.m. Come celebrate the new season and the Eichel contract with friends.

The Party will be highlighted by a special live performance throughout the event by Rochester natives Joywave, whose single, "It's A Trip!," is currently No. 24 on the Billboard US Alternative Radio chart. 

The Party will also feature the KeyBank "puck shoot" and NHL Network inflatable games and giveaways for fans, as well as a fan photo area. Productive Edge will also be onsite to provide fans with an immersive 360-degree virtual reality experience that will put their hockey skills to the test. 

Sabres alumni and Sabretooth will be on hand to sign autographs and hand out giveaways during the event, which is free to the public. 

Food samplings will be provided by Tim Hortons, Yancey's Fancy and Wegmans Sushi. Additionally, food and beverages will be available for purchase during the Party. All outdoor events are weather permitting.

Following the Party, all fans who attend the home opener will receive a Sabres T-shirt courtesy of KeyBank.

Sign up for Learn To Play today

Video: Learn To Play a success

Learn to Play, which enhances the way youth hockey is offered by providing first-time participants from ages four to nine with free head-to-toe equipment, age-appropriate instruction and certified coaching led by NHL alumni in a fun and safe atmosphere is back for a second season. The program will be held at 10 local rinks this season with lessons taught by Sabres alumni and USA Hockey certified instructors.

Sabres alumnus Patrick Kaleta will continue implementing and managing the program. As a Buffalo native, Kaleta has worked with numerous local charity organizations throughout his career to help benefit families in Western New York. 

"Year one for Learn To Play was a tremendous success in which we introduced the game of hockey to more than 500 youth players, and we are very excited for what year two has to offer," Kaleta said. "This year, we are expanding the program as far east as Rochester and as far south as Olean. The support from the NHL, NHLPA and USA Hockey has given us the tools to grow the game of hockey and an opportunity to create lifelong fans."

All Buffalo Sabres Learn to Play participants will be outfitted at Pure Hockey, the official hockey retail partner of the Buffalo Sabres and HarborCenter. Equipment kits will include a helmet, stick, equipment bag, jersey, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, pants, shin pads, socks and skates.

Participants can register for the program and learn more about it by clicking here. 

Developed with the help of experts from USA Hockey and Hockey Canada, the NHL/NHLPA Learn to Play initiative aims to be the gold standard for youth hockey programs with the goal of inspiring more families to join the hockey community. 

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