Sabres Notebook: Pu earns his cheering section; backup goalie swap for prospects - The Buffalo News
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Sabres Notebook: Pu earns his cheering section; backup goalie swap for prospects

Because he has such a fun name to say, Cliff Pu has quickly earned a following in Buffalo. Whenever he scored, recorded an assist or blocked a shot during the Sabres' Prospect Challenge, the fans in HarborCenter serenaded the center.

"Puuuuuuuuuu!"

The way he's progressing, it's a name the fans could be saying for a while.

Selected in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Pu has all the makings of becoming a steal. The Sabres used him as their top center in the tournament, and he responded. He had two assists in the opening game while skating between Alex Nylander and Nick Baptiste, and he had a goal in the second game while centering for C.J. Smith and Justin Bailey.

He skated between Smith and Bailey again Monday when the Sabres hosted Pittsburgh in the championship game. He picked up an assist on Brendan Guhle's power-play goal that opened the scoring.

"Every player on this team is really talented, and I feel pretty blessed to play with anyone," Pu said in HarborCenter. "But they've given me some really good linemates the last few games and a lot of opportunity on the power play and penalty kill. I'm trying to work as hard as I can and reward them."

The Wraparound: Pittsburgh 5, Sabres 3

When the Sabres drafted Pu, he was a secondary player on a Memorial Cup team. The London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League were stacked. Forwards Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak jumped right to the NHL and made immediate impacts last season.

Pu capably embraced a top-line role. After recording 12 goals and 31 points in 63 games during 2015-16, he exploded for 35 goals and 83 points in the same number of games last year.

Buffalo selects center Cliff Pu with pick No. 69

The 6-foot-2, 192-pounder can fly. At the rate he's going, the 19-year-old could slot in nicely behind Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly in a year or two.

"Every day you try and get better, and I think over the last two years I've really tried to improve every aspect of my game," Pu said. "I think I've grown on the ice and off the ice, so hopefully I can continue to do that."

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The Sabres, who started goaltender Jonas Johansson, added a new backup. Clint Windsor joined the team, replacing invitee Jake McGrath, who suffered a hand injury.

Windsor spent the last three seasons playing for Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. The 23-year-old signed an amateur tryout contract Toronto's minor-league team last year but didn't appear in a game.

McGrath earned accolades with his lone appearance. The 18-year-old stopped 35 shots Saturday, helping the Sabres pick up a 7-4 victory over Boston.

”He played a great game," said right wing Nick Baptiste, who played for Sudbury before joining the Sabres' organization. "He's a great kid, too, a real nice kid. We get along well, and I'm happy for him to win at this level.

"That's a vote of confidence for a goaltender when you do that. You play in the OHL and you come here and play guys who have played NHL games, it's a big step."

Fresh mentality helps Bailey hit the re-set button

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NHL Network did a ranking of the top 50 players, and it slotted Sabres center Jack Eichel in the No. 37 position. He was sandwiched by Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar (No. 36) and Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler.

Sabres star Eichel to sign autographs at Dave & Adam's

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