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Sabres shake up lines, power play ahead of matchup with Kings

Dahlin, Mittelstadt join top power-play unit with Eichel

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA - Coming off a pair of losses in Las Vegas and San Jose, the Buffalo Sabres took the ice for practice on Friday with new looks both at even strength and on the power play.

Among the changes that were made at forward: Jeff Skinner and Jason Pominville moved to a line centered by Jack Eichel while Evan Rodrigues moved from center to the left wing alongside Casey Mittelstadt and Kyle Okposo. 

On defense, Jake McCabe partnered with Rasmus Ristolainen while Marco Scandella paired with Casey Nelson. Zach Bogosian and Nathan Beaulieu took maintenance days, so forward Remi Elie skated on a pair with Rasmus Dahlin. 

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Okposo feeling benefits of healthy offseason

Forward sees offense coming for line with Mittelstadt and Skinner

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

SAN JOSE - Kyle Okposo burst into the offensive zone as if he had been shot out of cannon. With the Buffalo Sabres trailing 2-0 in the second period against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, their alternate captain took it upon himself to set the tone and turned in the shift of the night.

Okposo sped through the neutral zone and chipped the puck in deep, then rushed past Cody Eakin and Brad Hunt to secure it along the end boards. He maintained possession as he swung behind the net and cut to the slot, where he created a scoring chance for linemate Casey Mittelstadt. 

When Mittelstadt's shot went wide, Okposo was again the first to retrieve it behind the net, this timing proceeding to carry it all the way to the blue line for a cycle with defenseman Jake McCabe, which nearly created another scoring chance.

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'Let's flow': Breaking down Ullmark's first career shutout

Sabres goaltending coach discusses what made Ullmark successful in Arizona

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

LAS VEGAS - For Buffalo Sabres goaltending coach Andrew Allen, the moment that set the course for Linus Ullmark's first career shutout came with just over five minutes remaining in the first period and Vinnie Hinostroza streaking down the right wing side. 

Ullmark admitted following his 36-save shutout of the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday that he felt off to begin the game. Allen could see it too; Ullmark tripped while playing a puck behind the net and had a few shots bounce off him early. 

Then Hinostroza came bursting down the ice. 

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Dahlin, Sabres prep for 5-game road trip out west

Ullmark awaiting opportunity; Skinner practices with Mittelstadt

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Rasmus Dahlin is aware of the charter flight, the nice hotels and the warm weather awaiting the Buffalo Sabres on the West Coast. Other than that, he admitted he had few ideas in terms of what to expect on his first NHL road trip. 

It will be a doozy: five games spanning over nine days, including dates with four teams that were in the Western Conference playoffs last season. The lone exception is a visit to Arizona to kick off the trip on Saturday. 

"To be honest, I have no idea what to expect," Dahlin said. "Just go and have fun."

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Bogosian, Sobotka return to practice

Defenseman inching toward return from lower-body injury

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Zach Bogosian led the stretch at center ice to conclude practice at Harborcenter on Wednesday, his first skate with his Sabres teammates since late September.

He'll need a few more practices before making his season debut, but it was a step in the right direction. 

"I felt nice to be back with the team," Bogosian said. "It's been a little bit. It felt good."

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Larsson returns to practice with Sabres

Elie sparked bench during debut; PK thrived on aggressiveness

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Johan Larsson came into training camp prepared to fight for his spot in the lineup. The Sabres had made it a point to increase internal competition during the offseason, and Larsson returned - in his coach's words - in the best shape he's been in. 

It showed on the ice. Larsson's game was always defined by his work on the forecheck and in front of the net, but Phil Housley said that his increased upper-body strength gave him an added edge in those areas.

Then it came to an early end. Larsson was injured blocking a shot during the team's preseason game in Pittsburgh on Sept. 26. While the competition continued around him, Larsson began the regular season on injured reserve.

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Elie awaiting chance to crack lineup with Sabres

Forward expects to bring physical presence to lineup

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Remi Elie was the first skater to glide onto the ice for practice at KeyBank Center on Friday morning, jumping out a few minutes early to get some shots in on the goaltenders.

It's safe to say he's itching to get out there in a more formal setting.

"I'm excited to be here," Elie said. "I'm excited to get this season started with this team."

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Eichel honored, humbled to be named captain of Sabres

Forward will become the 28th player to wear the "C" for Buffalo

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Jack Eichel was at home cooking dinner on Tuesday night when he answered a phone call from coach Phil Housley, who told him to return to KeyBank Center. 

Eichel made the quick drive to the rink, where he met with Housley, general manager Jason Botterill and team owner Terry Pegula. Together, they broke the news: Eichel would be the 19th full-time captain of the Buffalo Sabres, and the 28th player to wear the "C" in franchise history.

What followed, Housley said, was an intimate conversation about expectations and the task ahead. Following his first practice as captain on Wednesday, Eichel seemed up to the challenge.

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Sabres power play looks to build on strong finish to last season

Eichel excited to play PK; Wilson absent from practice

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Last season was a tale of two extremes for the Buffalo Sabres power play, and the turning point can be traced to Jan. 1. 

From opening night through the end of December, the Sabres' had the least productive power play in the league, tying Columbus with a league-low 14 goals. They were among the best from Jan. 1 on, tying Boston with a league-high 35 goals in 44 games. 

The latter performance was more reminiscent of the year prior, when the Sabres scored at a league-best 24.5-percent clip with the extra man. It came down to the same five players, too: Rasmus Ristolainen at the point, Sam Reinhart at the net-front and Jack Eichel, Kyle Okposo and Ryan O'Reilly - now in St. Louis - between them. 

The improvement, Sabres coach Phil Housley said, stemmed from the group's shot mentality. 

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Eichel, Sheary among returnees at practice on Sunday

Wilson leaves with injury; Bogosian, Larsson day-to-day

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

With exhibition play behind them and their season opener against the Boston Bruins on Thursday quickly approaching, the Sabres' opening-night roster is beginning to take shape. 

Buffalo took the ice for practice at Harborcenter on Sunday with 24 players - 22 skaters and two goalies. The deadline for submitting their final 23-man roster is Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Jack Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella were back at practice after sitting out of Friday's preseason finale to nurse minor ailments. Conor Sheary (upper body) also skated with the team for the first time since the first weekend of camp. 

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