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Sabres Notebook: Top lines taking shape

There are still two preseason games left and a week of practices before the Buffalo Sabres open the regular season on Oct. 5.

But the top two lines seem to be taking shape as the team continued training camp in HarborCenter on Monday.

Jack Eichel centered a line with Evander Kane and Jason Pominville while Ryan O'Reilly was between Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo.

"I mean there's still some opportunity for position," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We're still going to try to put guys in different spots these last two games."

While fans should expect some juggling of combinations the last two preseason games, those top six forwards look close to the combination expected to be on the ice for the season opener.

For his part, Okposo is excited to be playing on right wing with Girgensons on the left.

"I think we've definitely developed some chemistry pretty early in camp," Okposo said. Girgensons "is a guy who's always going to give you 100 percent. He's not shy to get his nose in there and really sacrifice his body to go help the team win, and get the puck back, and do the little things right. I think he has a new-found confidence this year. He's really going for it. He's been really good and I'm excited to have him on the other side."

Okposo noted he was disappointed in the team's 3-1 loss to Toronto on Saturday. It wasn't crisp, he said. That crispness should emerge with another week of practice and games to learn the intricacies of the new system.

"It's just a lot of positionally where to be and just being more aggressive all around," Okposo said. "I think for myself, you've got to exert a lot of energy and you've got to be in the right places quicker. I think that's something we really have to work on, is not sitting back on our heels. You have to make sure that you're on your toes all the time. If you make a mistake you want to make it going hard, going fast."

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Forward Evan Rodrigues and defenseman Jake McCabe were both missing from Monday's practice. Rodrigues was apparently injured during Friday night's game against Toronto during a hit from Maple Leafs' defenseman Andreas Borgman.

"As far as I know he's got a hand injury. That's as much as I know right now," said Housley, who was unsure how long Rodrigues would be out. "They just evaluated him right now. We'll see what happens from there."

McCabe meanwhile missed with an upper-body injury.

"More maintenance," Housley said. "He's more of a week-to-week right now so we'll know more as the days move by here."

Housley did seem to think McCabe would be ready for the opener. "Every day's different," Housley said. "We'll just have to go day by day."

Forwards Alexander Nylander and Sean Malone were already on the injured list and Housley said both have been making progress.

"They're making some headway with their injuries," the coach said. "I think Nylander, the reports we're getting is that he's better, feeling comfortable. Sean has been skating, so that's intriguing.

"I know it's tough on those guys. They come into camp and want to make an impression. It's unfortunate, but they continue to improve."

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On Sunday, the Sabres sent defenseman Brendan Guhle to the Rochester Americans.

Housley said on Monday that they talked with the young player about how to develop in the AHL.

"From prospects camp to main camp to exhibition games, you could see this pace is getting faster and faster and there's not a lot of time," Housley said. "I just felt he's got to get more comfortable with himself. We talked to him just about going down and developing. It's not a bad thing. ... You saw when he was very decisive in his decisions, he's a special player."

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Guhle was on the roster as the Amerks opened their training camp at Blue Cross Arena on Monday.

On the official camp roster are forwards Colin Blackwell, Eric Cornel, Kyle Criscuolo, Justin Danforth, Hudson Fasching, Sahir Gill, Vaclav Karabacek, Alex Kile, Adam Krause, Brandon McNally, Stevie Moses, Daniel Muzito-Bagenda, Kevin Porter, Garret Ross, C.J. Smith, and Dalton Smith.

Defensemen, besides Guhle,  include Conor Allen, Arvin Atwal, Anthony Florentino, Barry Goers,  Andrew MacWilliam, Brycen Martin, Casey Nelson, Nathan Paetsch, and Devante Stephens.

Jason Kasdorf, Jonas Johansson, Anthony Peters, and Adam Wilcox will vie for goaltending time.

Practice sessions are free and open to the public. The team is scheduled for sessions at 10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Friday the team will play the Toronto Marlies at 7:05 p.m. in a preseason game in the Gene Polisseni Center on the campus of RIT. The same teams meet on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in HarborCenter.

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Individual tickets are on sale for the outdoor game between the U.S. and Canada as part of the IIHF Men's World Junior. Tickets for the game, scheduled for 3 p.m. Dec. 29 at New Era Field, range from $45 to $90 and are available online from Ticketmaster.

 

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