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Sabres notebook: Conacher looks to learn with Marlies

When the Toronto Maple Leafs started to raid the roster of their American Hockey League affiliate, it created opportunities.

Shane Conacher decided to take advantage of one of those opportunities.

The junior forward left Canisius College to sign with the Toronto Marlies, turning pro and forgoing his final year of collegiate eligibility.

“Around the last two games of the regular season I started talking to my advisor and thinking about what was the best option for me and my future,” Conacher said. “I think my development at Canisius, and how well I developed there and the coaching staff and how much they worked to get my game better made me ready for the pro level. I had a good year this year so I just thought it was the time and place.”

Conacher signed an Amateur Try Out (ATO) contract with the Marlies but also signed a one-year AHL deal with the organization for next season.

“That was a big part of the talk as well,” Conacher said. “I didn’t want to leave Canisius or lose eligibility to play a couple games with the Marlies and be stuck with no teams for next year. That was a big part of my decision making.”

Conacher, who led Canisius with 46 points and finished his collegiate career with 106, has played in two games for the Marlies, who have clinched a playoff berth and sit in first place in the Eastern Conference. The team is missing a chunk of players who have been up with the Leafs for the last month.

Those players will return to the Marlies when the Leafs end their season on April 9. The Marlies continue on, with the regular season ending April 17 and the Calder Cup playoffs just beginning.

Conacher knows up front that he will likely be out of the lineup once players return to the Marlies.

“They kinda told me I’d play maybe four games,” Conacher said. “Then when those guys come back unless I’m playing really well, it’s hard to take one of the veteran guys out of the lineup. So I’m there just for injuries. It’s hard not to play going down the stretch, but I’ll practice with them and be around the rink. A lot of guys learn the most by watching. Obviously you want to play, but I hope to be a good dressing-room guy.”

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The third goal may have been an empty-netter but it still counted as a hat trick for Nazem Kadri when the Maple Leafs beat Florida, 5-2, on Tuesday. The center has seven points (five goals, two assists) in his last four games. He now has 17 goals on the season, approaching his career-best mark of 20.

“I just have to stay with it, I’ve been saying that since the beginning of the year,” Kadri said to reporters after the win in Florida. “You can’t be frustrated. I felt like this year I found a whole different dimension to my game playing on the defensive side. I’ve just become more reliable, better in the faceoff circle, things like that are going to be important down the line, not just scoring goals.”

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Six of the last 10 games between the Sabres and Leafs have gone to overtime, including shootouts in five of the last nine. … The Leafs have not won in First Niagara Center since a 4-3 overtime win on Jan. 29, 2013. Their last regulation win in Buffalo was a 2-1 decision on Feb. 16, 2011. … Sabres’ forward Matt Moulson has 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) in his last 16 games against Toronto. In 27 career games against the Leafs he has 25 points.

email: amoritz@buffnews.com

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