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by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres are flying high right now, so it's only appropriate that they took off Wednesday on a flight bound for Tampa Bay after a short practice at First Niagara Center.

Buffalo defeated the Lightning 2-1 in the shootout on Tuesday and will square off with them again Thursday night at Amalie Arena. The Sabres have won three games in a row and six of their past seven.

After a rough start to the season, it’s taken a lot of work for them to get to this point and the team knows there is still much more to be accomplished.

“This team has persevered through a lot of stuff,” coach Ted Nolan said. “We got booed off the ice a couple times. It didn’t feel too good. They just worked and worked and it’s great to see them have some rewards for it.”

Cody McComick is set to be back in the lineup after missing the past four games while going through concussion protocol procedures. He was almost cleared to play on Tuesday, but was ruled out shortly after the morning skate.

While McCormick will be back on Thursday, Drew Stafford will have to wait until Saturday before he’s ready to play again. He’s been sidelined the past two games with a lower-body injury but Nolan said he should be ready when the team plays the Panthers over the weekend.

With those two players ready to return, Buffalo sent rookie center Tim Schaller back to the American Hockey League after practice.

Jhonas Enroth is slated to start once again against the Lightning. He’s 5-1-0 with a .953 save percentage and a 1.55 goals-against average in his past six appearances.

Several players were able to invite family members on the current two-game road trip that sees the Sabres play in Tampa Bay on Wednesday and against the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Stafford and his parents have been able to experience a few of these trips over the years. He brought his mom on the trip to Phoenix and Denver last year, so this year, it was Dad’s turn.

“Growing up with the support we had from our parents and family members, you kind of get to pay them back in some sort of way here by showing them what we do for a living,” he said. “It’s pretty cool and the Pegulas are extremely hospitable. It’s really good.”

The hockey world is mourning the passing of Jean Beliveau, who won 17 Stanley Cups in his career (10 as a player and seven as an executive with the Montreal Canadiens). He was 83 when he died Tuesday night.

Beliveau’s on-ice accomplishments are vast – 1,219 points (507+712) in 1,125 games, 14 All-Star appearances and the winner of two Hart Trophies, an Art Ross Trophy and the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy.

But Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges, who had the chance to meet him a few times when he played for the Canadiens, was always blown away by the way Beliveau presented himself in the community, especially long after his playing days were over.

“He is what every hockey player should strive to be: A top-end, talented hockey player, a winner, a champion,” Gorges said. “But he did it all with class and respect. I think that’s why he’s such a role model and such an icon in that city, the province, all the hockey world because he was a good man.

“Everything he did was the right way. I was lucky enough to be there and watch him and see how he holds himself. It’s a sad day in the hockey world.”

Gorges recounted one time he was walking with Beliveau and a fan stopped them to ask for a photo and an autograph. After they had taken the photo, Beliveau pulled a Sharpie out of his suit jacket to sign the autograph.

“When you play in Montreal, make sure you never leave home without a Sharpie,” he told Gorges, who was a little confused.

Beliveau told him, “People always want to have autographs and you need to be ready. You need to be able to sign their autographs because they might not have a pen.”

“Here’s a guy that didn’t have to do that,” Gorges said.”He didn’t have to take his time out of his day to do that for people, but he made the extra effort to make sure he was always prepared to give back to his city.”

Gorges said he chose to wear No. 4 in Buffalo as a tribute to Beliveau.

“He’s just a true gentleman of the game and he’s a guy that every hockey player should look to,” he said.

Beliveau was part of the ceremonial faceoff prior to the first regular-season home game in Buffalo Sabres franchise history. He lined up against Sabres captain Floyd Smith as owner Seymour H. Knox III dropped the puck on Oct. 15, 1970 at the Aud.

26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 80 Chris Stewart
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 59 Tim Schaller – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
21 Drew Stafford

4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Mike Weber – 24 Tyson Strachan
61 Andre Benoit

1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth

Did Not Practice: 31 Matt Hackett (injured reserve, knee), 41 Andrej Meszaros (concussion protocol)

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