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POSTED ON Tuesday, 09.16.2014 / 9:42 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / TRAVERSE CITY 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – The 2014 NHL Prospect Tournament is over for the Buffalo Sabres and they’ll head home with a lot of new lessons learned.

The Sabres finished 0-3-1 after a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday at Centre Ice Arena.

After a disappointing effort on Monday against Dallas, Sabres tournament coach Chadd Cassidy liked the way his team responded against the Blues. They came out hard for their first shift and rebounded from a performance that no one on the team was happy about.

“That’s what we ask our guys, is to compete and they played with a lot of determination today,” Cassidy said. “I thought they played desperate. We piled up the shots and scoring chances and didn’t get the result, but it was a much better effort today.”

WATCH: POSTGAME INTERVIEWS

Robby Fabbri, St. Louis’ top pick in this year’s draft, scored twice on the power play to put the Blues up 2-0.

Justin Bailey got Buffalo on the board 1:02 remaining in the second period while on the man advantage. Bailey threw a puck on goal, followed up down the wing and netted the rebound. Daniel Catenacci and Rasmus Ristolainen assisted on the goal.

It’s one of many golden opportunities Bailey has had in the tournament. After he scored, a look of relief was clearly visible on his face. He had a great backhand chance late in the first period that was stopped but he finally broke through later on.

“I think it was a huge relief, especially at the time the goal came,” Bailey, who scored 25 goals for Kitchener last year,  said. “It gave us some momentum in the third, but for me it was a huge boost.”

The fourth line generated some good chances as well, but things didn’t go in their favor. Forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas made a strong move to the front of the Blues net midway through the second period and scored. However the goal was disallowed because officials determined that the net had come off its moorings before the puck crossed the line.

Buffalo controlled play for most of the third period, holding an 11-3 shot advantage through the final 20 minutes. They ended up out-shooting the Blues 38-16 in the game.

Andrey Makarov started in net for the Sabres, stopping 14 shots. Niklas Lundstrom picked up the win for St. Louis.


SHORTAGE OF GOALS
One reason Buffalo struggled to win games this year in Traverse City was a lack of offense. Buffalo scored only six goals in four games with half of them coming against the Stars on Monday. However, oddly enough, with the exception of that Dallas game, the other three games were tightly contested.

And even without 2013 third-round pick Nicholas Baptiste, who missed the tournament due to injury, the Sabres still had plenty of firepower on the roster. However, the various line combinations couldn’t click in time and Buffalo was unable to execute.

“Nobody saw us going 0-4 in this tournament, but you never know. You’ve got a lot of young guys here and the thing that probably we didn’t see coming was our inability to score goals,” Cassidy said. “When you don’t score, you’re not going to win hockey games. If you really take a good look at it from a coaching perspective and when we stand back, three of the four games, we played pretty darn well.”


A TIGHTER GROUP THROUGH ADVERSITY
One thing the tournament can do is bring the group closer together and start to build the chemistry that other, older teams in Traverse City have been able to develop.

“There’s a lot we can learn from this tournament. There are a lot of good players and I think we realized that first hand,” 2014 first-round pick Sam Reinhart said. “Obviously we didn’t take anyone lightly coming in, but it was battle right from the start and we’re trying to take as much positive as we can out of this.

Reinhart finished the tournament with only one assist, but didn’t look out of place in the tournament and made some heady passing plays throughout. One player that was impressed with Reinhart’s play was 2013 first-round pick Nikita Zadorov.

“I like playing with him and I think he’s one of the best centers I’ve played with in my life. He’s so easy to play with,” the defenseman said of Reinhart. “I think it’s great to have that smart center on your team.”

Including Reinhart and Zadorov, the Sabres had a total of 10 first and second-round picks on their Traverse City roster. The talent was there, but they weren’t able to break through.

“I know we have a pretty good team and a lot of talent over there,” Zadorov said. “But I don’t know, we had so many shots today, so many scoring chances and we’ve got to score. Maybe it’s not our tournament.”

What they can do, however, according to Bailey, is take all they can from these experiences.

“Moving forward as a group, I think we’ve learned a lot about each other losing the games that we lost this week,” he said.


ZADOROV BOUNCES BACK
After being benched against the Stars, Zadorov had a lot to prove to Cassidy in the game on Tuesday. Zadorov played some key situations against St. Louis and, like the team, rebounded with an honest effort.

“I liked his game a lot today. He played desperate. He played a team game today,” Cassidy said. “I thought he was much sharper out there today and I thought his teammates could rely on him to play the right way today. That’s going to be a big step for him.”

Zadorov said he felt better on the ice as well.

“I just tried to play hard, just tried to the best for the team to help my team win,” he said.

As for the game against Dallas, Zadorov said all he can do is move on and not dwell on it.

“That wasn’t my day and I can say, ‘Bad things happened,’” he said. “Don’t look back and keep going and play my game.”


LEADING BY EXAMPLE
One player that impressed Cassidy over the course of the tournament was Ristolainen, Buffalo’s top pick in 2013 (eighth overall). Ristolainen was named the captain of the team in Traverse City and has used his time off the ice to further his development.

Over the course of last season and this summer, the 19-year-old Finnish defenseman has really committed to a healthy diet and exercise. He now checks in at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds (down eight pounds since last year), but he said he’s as lean as ever and his play in the tournament showed that he has already come a long way since he was drafted.

“Rasmus was as good as we could ask him to be. He played big minutes, he played really physical, great leadership,” Cassidy said. “It’s hard to say what guys played really well because we didn’t get the results. I thought a lot of guys played hard, but I thought the leader of that group was definitely Rasmus.”

He wrapped up his Traverse City tournament with a goal and an assist.


WHAT’S NEXT
Main camp opens up on Thursday with the first on-ice sessions starting at 11 a.m. on Friday. All on-ice practices during training camp are open to the public.

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POSTED ON Monday, 09.15.2014 / 8:24 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / TRAVERSE CITY 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – From the first shift, the outcome was evident.

The Dallas Stars got off to a fast start against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, controlling play off the opening faceoff and never letting up on the gas pedal. Dallas scored three goals in the first period and ended up with a 7-3 victory to claim the Ted Lindsay Division title at Centre Ice Arena.

The Sabres fall to 0-2-1 in the NHL Prospect Tournament, a disappointing result considering they came into the tournament with high expectations and the goal of winning it all.

“The first two games, I think sometimes we played pretty well, but this third one was horrible right away from the first shift,” Sabres tournament captain Rasmus Ristolainen said. “We were not ready to play and battle and we looked horrible. We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen tomorrow.”

Brendan Ranford and Matej Stransky each scored twice for Dallas. Brett Pollock, Ludwig Bystrom and Julius Honka also put the puck in the back of the net.

Ristolainen, Justin Kea and Brady Austin tallied for Buffalo. Francois Brassard started in goal for the Sabres but was replaced by Andrey Makarov to start the second period.

WATCH: POSTGAME INTERVIEWS

“Looking at today, I think we were lackadaisical off the start,” center Sam Reinhart, the second-overall pick in 2014, said. “They came out ready to play and for whatever reason, we didn’t. We need to correct that fast if we all want to stick around.”

Buffalo was able to claw their way back into the game and had some great chances in the third period to cut the lead down.

“But it was too little, too late,” coach Chadd Cassidy said. “The first shift of the game set the tone for the game… They just cycled on us, had some good chances and we were playing from behind the rest of the way.”

Buffalo had a prime opportunity to make it a closer contest when they went on the power play with 6:38 remaining in regulation. However, they weren’t able to convert and a few minutes later with Makarov pulled, Dallas netted their seventh goal.

Cassidy thinks fatigue may have been a factor in causing some of the Sabres’ problems against Dallas.

“Coming off of an off day, I know some of our top players were playing a lot of minutes – especially Rasmus and [Jake McCabe] tonight played tons of minutes,” he said. “But you’ve got to smell the blood in the water there and understand the urgency of that power play.”

The Stars finished round-robin play 3-0-0 with eight points. They’ll face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday in the final.

Buffalo will play at 3 p.m. on Tuesday in the seventh-place game. It can be heard live in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 and on Sabres.com (a Flash player is required to listen to the stream).


CAN’T START A FIRE WITHOUT A SPARK
Down 1-0 and realizing the game was heading in the wrong direction early, Kea tried to create a spark when he dropped the gloves with defenseman Patrick Sanvido 8:02 into the game. It’s the second time Kea has fought in the tournament.

“You get sick of losing, right? The last few games haven’t gone the way we wanted and they probably could’ve if we had a little more scoring. After they scored that one goal, I didn’t want it to keep going in their favor so I just tried t get something going for the guys,” he said.


GOALS TOUGH TO COME BY
Going into the game, Buffalo had been held to only a goal in each of their first two games. Cassidy tried to mix up the line combinations a bit, most notably moving Joel Armia to left wing and playing William Carrier with him and Reinhart.

Carrier set up Buffalo’s third goal when he cut to the middle of the ice and dropped the puck back to Austin.

While the goals aren’t yet going in with the desired frequency, Reinhart said he isn’t panicking or feeling frustrated.

“It’s early. For me, a lot of it is building and I feel if I’m getting chances, it’s just a matter of time,” he said. “I feel confident with it. Everyone has some moments where it’s not going in and I stick with the process and I know it’s going to turn eventually.”

Buffalo thought they had another goal from Austin but it was waved off due to a delayed offsides call. Austin shot the puck in from center ice and it took a bounce and banked in off the post and past goaltender Phillippe Desrosiers. While the Sabres were celebrating, the officials were talking to get the call right.

The goal would have made it 4-2 with 7:21 remaining in the second period.

“That would’ve put us back in the game at that point with a lot of time left but that’s kind of the way the tournament’s gone,” Cassidy said. “Not that we’ve earned a lot of them, but we haven’t gotten a lot of breaks. We’ve certainly got to play better and play harder so we earn some more breaks.”


COACH'S DECISION
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov did not play for most of the second period and was benched for the entire third. Cassidy said he wanted to see more effort out of the 2013 first-round pick.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are trying to make an NHL team in the next week or so. I wouldn’t specifically say he was the only one, but maybe the biggest offender,” Cassidy said. “We just didn’t like his effort and we had to make a decision on it.”

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POSTED ON Sunday, 09.14.2014 / 12:20 AM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / TRAVERSE CITY 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – Goals have been hard to come by for the Buffalo Sabres so far in the 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament.

Through two games, the Sabres have scored only two goals and are now 0-1-1 after a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday at Centre Ice Arena.

The names you’d expect to see on the scoring sheet have had their opportunities, but haven’t yet been able to bury the puck.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty frustrated,” forward Justin Bailey said. “I think I had a few grade-A chances these past few games that I haven’t executed. I know it sounds a little cliché, but I am getting chances and I think once one goes, in the floodgates will open up.”

Bailey was robbed early in the third period by the glove of Rangers goaltender Mackenzie Skapski. He also had a chance to score on a 2-on-1 in the first game of the tournament, but was also foiled by a great piece of goaltending.

Joseph Blandisi, a camp invitee who played in Ottawa and Barrie last season, scored the Sabres’ only goal. That gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead with 5:54 remaining in the first period.

“I thought one of our strengths coming into this tournament was going to be scoring goals. We have a lot of guys who are producers in that area,” Sabres tournament coach Chadd Cassidy said. “It’s obviously been an issue for us. We had a lot of good chances again tonight.”

The Rangers tied the game five seconds into the first period when a long shot off the faceoff at center ice by defenseman Sam Noreau skipped up and beat goaltender Francois Brassard.

Regulation didn’t solve anything so the game went overtime, where Rangers wing Chris McCarthy found Adam Tambellini on a 2-on-1 for the winning tally. With Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe caught up-ice, it was up to forward Brendan Lemieux to defend against the oncoming attack.

Lemieux was in good position, but the puck found its way over to Tambellini on the left side, who buried the puck into the back of the net.

“I did all I can, pushing over and he found a hole. It was a nice shot,” Brassard said.

To generate more offense, Cassidy would like to see his club play heavier around the net and create more traffic to make the opposing goaltenders’ job even more difficult.

“Unless you’re going to play heavy down in that area, you’re not going to score a lot of goals,” Cassidy said.


A STRONG DEBUT
The Sabres coaching staff opted to go with Brassard in net over Andrey Makarov, who is expected to compete for the starting job in Rochester this year.

Brassard was a sixth-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2012 and played last season with Quebec of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

He wound up with 33 saves against the Rangers and his strong play may have earned him another start in the tournament, whether on Monday against the Dallas Stars or on Tuesday in a cross-divisional matchup.

While the bouncer early in the second period may have been one he’d like to have back, he impressed his teammates with his performance.

“Other than that, he was lights out,” McCabe said. “He gave us a chance to win the game and that’s all you can ask from your goaltender.”


A ‘FUNKY’ NEW FORMAT
With rule changes coming at both the NHL and AHL levels, some new rules were adopted for the Traverse City tournament. Among them, the overtime format has been tweaked to reflect the new rule in the AHL.

In the now seven-minute overtime period, teams skate 4-on-4 until the first while following three minutes of play. The remaining amount of time will be played 3-on-3 and if that doesn’t solve anything, a three-round shootout will commence.

It was during the 3-on-3 portion of overtime that the Rangers won the game.

“The 3-on-3’s kind of funky and I got caught below the puck and an odd-man rush went the other way,” McCabe said.

Just before the puck went back up ice to set up the game-winner, McCabe and Sam Reinhart were in on a good scoring chance in the Rangers end. A little it before that, Reinhart and Bailey almost converted as well.

Bailey also had a great chance in the overtime period and started the 3-on-3 portion with Reinhart and tournament captain Rasmus Ristolainen.

“It’s definitely unique. That doesn’t happen very much. Usually it’s 4-on-4 and then a shootout. You live for those moments,” Bailey said. “I think there’s a lot of room. Me and Sam Reinhart had a good chance there that just didn’t happen. You have to really pay attention.”

Cassidy will have to adjust to the new rule when he’s behind the bench of the Amerks all season. He said after the game that it will take some time to get used to and will be something else he’ll need to have his players prepared for.

“Experience is the only thing I dislike. You don’t play a lot of 3-on-3s so it’s hard to figure out exactly how to play that and guys don’t have a lot of practice playing it,” he said.

“Everybody’s trying to score. It’s something that probably, once the season breaks out, you’ve got to work on it a little more, but it’s a work in progress. We’ll see how it goes.”


WANTED: A STRONG FINISH
The Sabres will practice Sunday afternoon in preparation of their 3 p.m. game on Monday against the Dallas Stars. It’s the last game of round-robin play and the outcome will determine their final seed – and opponent – for Tuesday.

While they won’t be able to reach the championship game for the third-straight tournament, they’ll look to leave Traverse City on a positive note.

“We’re trying to get better every game, ready for the season,” McCabe said. “Guys are getting in game shape now. It’s a great tournament. It’s a great compete level, great skill out there from all the teams. There are great prospects here. We think we have one of the better prospects [groups] so we’re going to put something together and hopefully put a couple wins together.”

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POSTED ON Saturday, 09.13.2014 / 1:55 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / TRAVERSE CITY 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – Rookie center Sam Reinhart said he’s good to go after two plays in the NHL Prospect Tournament game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday that looked like could have resulted in injury.

The second-overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft took a blindside hit from Carter Sandlak along the left wing boards in the defensive zone 5:37 into the second period. While Reinhart was still down on the ice, Brendan Lemieux jumped in to challenge Sandlak. Both Sandlak and Lemieux were assessed roughing minors.

“It’s one of those things where your top-notch forward gets hit the wrong way and I pride myself on being a guy that sticks up for his teammates,” Lemieux said after the game Thursday evening. “I’m definitely going to want to step in there and just let him know.”

Reinhart said after the morning skate that he’s feeling all right for Saturday night and was happy to see his teammates jump in there like that for him when he took that hit.

“Nice to see it from them. From the hit and that standpoint, I felt fine from it,” he said. “I didn’t see him coming, but I got up and no side effects from it.”

Reinhart then appeared to cut a finger midway through the third period. He received treatment and finished the game without incident.

“He’s good. It’s fine. It’s going to be a little uncomfortable, but he’s going to be all right,” coach Chadd Cassidy said. “He just had a little bit of an injury. He fell on his hand and banged it up a little bit, but he’s going to be fine.”

The Sabres play the New York Rangers at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The game can be heard live on ESPN 1520 in Buffalo and will be streaming on Sabres.com’s desktop player. Check out Sabres.com/TraverseCity after the game for a recap and video analysis.

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POSTED ON Saturday, 09.13.2014 / 1:41 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / TRAVERSE CITY 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – The Buffalo Sabres will try to improve their special teams play as they enter the second game of the NHL Prospect Tournament. Buffalo surrendered three power-play goals to the Hurricanes in their 6-1 loss on Friday.

However, with hockey comes injuries and making some of those on-ice corrections may be tougher without one of the team’s top defensemen playing.

Jake McCabe, who is serving as an alternate captain for the tournament, may not be available for Buffalo’s game Saturday against the New York Rangers at 7 p.m Rochester Americans Chadd Cassidy declared McCabe a game-time decision. Jared Walsh will dress if McCabe is unable to go.

The game can be heard live in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 and on Sabres.com’s desktop player.

The big change for the Sabres’ lineup that is a sure thing comes between the pipes.

After Andrey Makarov surrendered six goals on Friday, it will be Francois Brassard getting the start in goal against New York. The sixth-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2012 was invited to camp by the Sabres on a try-out basis.

“We felt like that was an area we needed to get a little better in and we wanted to give him a look as well, so we’re going to give him a shot today,” Cassidy said.

Forwards Colin Jacobs and Joseph Blandisi and defenseman Ryan MacKinnon will also play for Buffalo after sitting out the first game.

The Rangers are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday. Ryan Haggerty, Samuel Noreau and Richard Nejezchelb scored to help New York to a 3-1 lead.

However, Dallas rallied back with a goal from Jason Dickinson early in the third period. Then, Brett Ritchie tied the game with two minutes to play in regulation and potted the overtime winner.

Brandon Halverson made 26 saves for the Rangers while Dallas’ Philippe Desrosiers stopped 19 shots. Dallas plays Carolina at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.


Sabres Lineup
71 Jordan Samuels-Thomas – 23 Sam Reinhart – 33 Joel Armia
48 William Carrier – 46 Eric Cornel – 74 Vaclav Karabacek
43 Daniel Catenacci – 75 Colin Jacobs – 15 Justin Bailey
53 Brendan Lemieux – 42 Justin Kea – 62 Joseph Blandisi

29 Jake McCabe / 83 Jared Walsh – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 56 Ryan MacKinnon
67 Brady Austin – 54 Brycen Martin

60 Francois Brassard
35 Andrey Makarov

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POSTED ON Friday, 09.12.2014 / 9:25 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / TRAVERSE CITY 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – One game into the 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament and the Buffalo Sabres know they have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to make it back to the championship game. Buffalo has made the finals the past two tournaments, but a third trip is in jeopardy after losing their tournament opener.

The Carolina Hurricanes scored three power-play goals Friday afternoon as they defeated Buffalo 6-1 at Centre Ice Arena.

Buffalo was able to generate a lot of chances and outshot the Hurricanes 35-20, but they couldn’t get the puck past goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.

“I’ve played against Ned a few times. He’s a great goaltender but we can’t put it all on him either,” Brendan Lemieux said. “I think there were some mistakes on our end and we just have to bury our chances. We had too many to only put up one goal tonight so we’ve got to dial it in a little. But yeah, he was pretty good tonight.”

The Hurricanes ended up going 3-for-5 on the power play. Phil DiGuseppe scored twice (once on the power play) and Alex Aleardi was credited with a goal and two assists. Brock McGinn, Victor Rask and Brent Pedersen also tallied.

Buffalo went down early, surrendering the first goal of the game 3:19 in while killing off a penalty.

“We knew they were going to be good on the power play,” coach Chadd Cassidy said. “I thought a lot of it was over-skating pucks and just not [focusing on] details away from the pucks.”

Buffalo battled back with a goal from Vaclav Karabacek with 7:16 remaining in the opening period before Carolina regained the lead with 2:28 to play in the first.

The Hurricanes added another pair of goals in the second period and two more in the third to close out the game. Buffalo started to press more in the Carolina zone late in the game and that led to some prime chances the Hurricanes were able to capitalize on.

“Maybe we had to take some risks there, but not too many. They used their chances pretty well every time,” defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen said.


THE GOAL
The line combination of Karabacek, Lemieux and center Eric Cornel corroborated to make Buffalo’s only goal happen. From the left wing corner, Lemieux threw a pass cross-ice to Cornel who made a no-look backhand into the middle where Karabacek was able to put it past Nedeljkovic.

“Eric found me. He has good eyes,” Karabacek said. “I thought he would shoot, but he found me and I was surprised. It was a very good pass from him.”

For Cornel, he anticipated Karabacek being in the right place at the right time.

“I sort of had a feeling he was going to be there,” Cornel said. “So I got it and made the quick pass. I was lucky enough to get it to work out.”

With only one practice together under their belts, the instant chemistry for the line came as a welcome surprise.

“I got hit and then I just saw the tail end of him spinning. It was a great play,” Lemieux said. “I definitely didn’t come into this game thinking we were going to pull off something like that.”

All three members of that line were second-round picks by the Sabres in this year’s draft.


OH, CAPTAIN
Before the game, Ristolainen was named captain of the team for the tournament. Jake McCabe and Joel Armia will serve as alternates.

“He’s been through a lot. He’s been a really successful player at a lot of different levels and he’s also a guy who’s also very vocal and will tell guys what he thinks,” Cassidy said. “I think that’s a big part of leadership no matter what age you are.”

While Ristolainen isn’t going to adjust his style, now that he has a letter on his chest, he said he’s going to try to step up even more on the ice – especially with Buffalo needing wins in order to place well in the tournament.

“I’m not going to change everything. I’m just going to do my job and lead more on the ice,” he said.


STAYING POSITIVE
Lemieux on moving on from the loss:

As a group, I think we have a lot to look forward to. We’ve got a group of top-notch guys that are playing well. We just need to put it together. I think the score really didn’t represent how good we were tonight.

We definitely played a lot better than the score was, but that’s the thing with hockey. Sometimes you’ve got to give that extra inch.

I’ve definitely been through my fair share of playing well and not producing or even as a group, losing 2-1, losing 6-1 and playing well. We’d rather lose well than squeak out wins when we don’t deserve them because at the end of the day it’s about improving. Especially at a tournament like this, we all want to improve and show our stuff.


WHAT'S NEXT
Lineup changes usually depend on the health and availability of certain players. Cassidy mentioned after the game that a few players are a little dinged up and they’ll wait for further evaluation before shaking up the roster.

He also said they’ll make a decision later on Friday as to who will start in goal against New York. Andrey Makarov made 14 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres and Rangers are set to face off at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“Makky didn’t have the kind of game he wanted to have to start out with tonight, but we kind of left him out to dry a few times as well,” Cassidy said.

The game on Saturday can be heard on ESPN 1520 in Buffalo and will be streamed on Sabres.com’s desktop player. Full postgame recaps and analysis will be on Sabres.com as well.

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POSTED ON Friday, 09.12.2014 / 2:18 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / TRAVERSE CITY 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – The Buffalo Sabres have found success pretty quickly in the NHL Prospects Tournament. Each time they’ve participated, they’ve reached the title game, winning the whole thing back in 2011.

Nine players from last year’s second-place team return for the Sabres. Buffalo made it to the finals a year ago, but lost to the Detroit Red Wings.

Center Daniel Catenacci is the only player back from Buffalo’s 2011 championship team. He knows what it was like to win – and he knows how disappointing last year’s loss was. While there’s a sense of unfinished business, he understands it’s a new year with a new group of players.

“Take it fresh, but at the same time, you don’t like to lose,” he said. “Being in the finals last year and not winning sucked. We want to win this year.”

The Sabres have four first-round picks on their Traverse City roster including defenseman Nikita Zadorov. In last year’s tournament, he scored the overtime winner against the New York Rangers to help Buffalo lock up the No. 1 seed in their division.

Zadorov’s eyes are on making the Sabres’ opening night roster and will try to use this tournament as a springboard into next week’s training camp. Now having one year in the Sabres organization under his belt, he’ll try to continue to be a player his teammates can look up to.

“You’ve got to be a leader every game. It doesn’t matter if you’re an older guy or a young guy,” he said. "I’ve got to step up in the NHL. I’ll have to be a leader over there and that’s my goal."

The tournament features the top prospects in eight organizations. All have the goals of making a name for themselves while helping their respective teams win.

“It’s a hard tournament. It’s a tough battle,” Catenacci said. “Guys think they’re coming in and playing a summer tournament to get ready for camp but this is a great opportunity to show your organization and obviously other organizations what you can do. It’s very important for camp to be seen and get noticed.”

Along with Zadorov and Catenacci, Rasmus Ristolainen, Joel Armia, Justin Bailey, Justin Kea, Brady Austin, Colin Jacobs and Andrey Makarov also return.

Coach Chadd Cassidy will name a captain prior to the game. The man wearing the “C” could very well be one of those returning skaters.

Forward Nicholas Baptiste would have made 10, but he’s out with an injury and didn’t make the trip.

A slew of injuries at the goaltending position in the Sabres organization during the season, Makarov was called upon to help lead the Rochester Americans into the playoffs. He was solid in net down the stretch and is ready to take the reins for Buffalo in Traverse City after serving as the third-string goaltender last year.

He’ll start in goal Friday afternoon in Traverse City against the Carolina Hurricanes at 4 p.m.

The game can be heard on ESPN 1520 in Buffalo and will feature play-by-play with Paul Hamilton, color commentary by Brian Duff and analysis during the second intermission from SabresProspects.com’s Kris Baker.

A recap and video analysis with Duff and Baker will be up on Sabres.com following the game.

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POSTED ON Friday, 09.12.2014 / 1:10 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / TRAVERSE CITY 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – Forward Nick Baptiste did not make the trip to Traverse City and will miss the 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament for the Buffalo Sabres. He sustained an injury during the Sudbury Wolves’ preseason game on Sept 5.

Last season, Baptiste, a third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, recorded 46 goals and 94 points in 70 games (regular season and playoffs). He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Buffalo in May and has a good shot at representing Team Canada at the World Junior Championship this winter.

Baptiste led the Sabres in scoring during last year’s Traverse City tournament so other players in the lineup will have to step up and produce offense. Specifically, Rochester Americans coach Chadd Cassidy – who is leading the Sabres prospects from behind the bench – is looking to Justin Bailey and Eric Cornel.

“A guy like Eric Cornel, hopefully he can have the same kind of tournament that Nick had last year for us, coming in here and being a producer right away and helping us put some points up on the board,” Cassidy said. “Those two guys are going to be counted on a lot for offense to fill that void.”

Cornel will center a line with fellow 2014 second-round picks Brendan Lemieux and Vaclav Karabacek. Bailey is slated to play right wing on the second line with William Carrier and center Daniel Catenacci.

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE LINEUP

The Sabres take on the Carolina Hurricanes in their first game of the 2014 NHL Prospect Tournament at 4 p.m. The game can be heard live on ESPN 1520. Stay tuned to Sabres.com for postgame reaction and analysis.

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POSTED ON Friday, 09.12.2014 / 12:51 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / TRAVERSE CITY 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – The beginning of the 2014 NHL Prospect Tournament marks another stop in Sam Reinhart’s goal to make the Buffalo Sabres roster in October. Reinhart, 18, was the second-overall selection in this year’s draft and the cerebral center knows he has a lot of work to do if he wants to be in the opening night lineup.

Rochester Americans coach Chadd Cassidy is giving him a great opportunity to shine right away and hopes Reinhart’s line can find some chemistry quickly in the early goings of the tournament.

In the Sabres' morning skate on Friday prior to their first game of the tournament, Reinhart was flanked by left wing Jordan Samuels-Thomas and right wing Joel Armia. Samuels-Thomas, at 6-foot-3, 216 pounds, should be able to create space for his linemates to generate offensive opportunities. A big, talented goal scorer like Armia – Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2011 (16th overall) – who is also 6-foot-3, could certainly benefit from playing with a creative center.

Cassidy was quick to point out after the skate that Buffalo’s game against the Hurricanes on Friday at 4 p.m. is only one game of many that Reinhart will have a chance to prove himself in.

“We obviously expect a lot of him from both ends of the rink, but it’s not going to make or break his career tonight,” Cassidy said.

RELATED: BAPTISTE TO MISS TOURNAMENT

There will also be some learning on both sides as the coaching staff tries to get a gauge on how to best handle each player on the roster. In that instance, Reinhart’s situation isn’t much different from any of the other prospects entering their first Traverse City tournament with the Sabres.

“We have to get a feel for how Sam ticks a little bit, what gets him going from a coaching, teaching perpective for our staff – the way we need to communicate with him and finding the right players to put around him,” he said.

The afternoon contest can be heard on ESPN 1520 in Buffalo with Paul Hamilton and Brian Duff on the call. For postgame reaction and analysis, be sure to keep your browser window open to Sabres.com

Sabres Lineup
71 Jordan Samuels-Thomas – 23 Sam Reinhart – 33 Joel Armia
48 William Carrier – 43 Daniel Catenacci – 15 Justin Bailey
53 Brendan Lemieux – 46 Eric Cornel – 74 Vaclav Karabacek
70 Michael Joly – 42 Justin Kea – 52 Jack Rodewald

29 Jake McCabe – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 83 Jared Walsh
67 Brady Austin – 54 Brycen Martin

35 Andrey Makarov
60 Francois Brassard

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POSTED ON Monday, 09.08.2014 / 4:35 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / TRAVERSE CITY 2014

Summer vacation is almost over for many prospects around the hockey world. For a few, the new season will begin on Sept. 12 in Traverse City, Michigan for the 2014 NHL Prospect Tournament.

For on-site coverage and analysis, stick with Sabres.com throughout the tournament. I'll be in Traverse City along with Sabres studio host Brian Duff and Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com.

The rosters for all eight teams participating have been announced and Buffalo’s lineup boasts an impressive number of highly drafted players. Buffalo won the tournament in 2011 and finished second to Detroit last year. Ten players from last year's Sabres squad will return to Traverse City.

Who is each team sending? We'll take a look at the top players from Carolina, Dallas, the Rangers, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota and St. Louis here. But let's start with the Sabres.

TED LINDSAY DIVISION

(Photo Credit: Bill WIppert)

BUFFALO SABRES
Click Here For Full Roster

First-Round Picks: 4
Sam Reinhart (2014), Rasmus Ristolainen (2013), Nikita Zadorov (2013), Joel Armia (2011)

Second-Round Picks: 6
Eric Cornel (2014), Vaclav Karabacek (2014), Brendan Lemieux (2014), Justin Bailey (2013), William Carrier (STL 2013), Jake McCabe (2012)

Total Drafted Players: 19

Spotlight On
Sam Reinhart’s hockey IQ and on-ice vision have been praised as some of his strongest assets. The second-overall pick in this year’s draft posted 105 points (36+69) with the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League last season and will look to start the 2014-15 season off on the right foot. If he wants to Sabres roster out of training camp, having a strong showing in Traverse City will help him make his case.

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