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Sabres Notebook: Eichel to show off skill at All-Star Weekend

TAMPA -- While the rest of the Buffalo Sabres could relax and relish their first three-game sweep in Western Canada since 1998, Jack Eichel was a man on the move Friday.

The Buffalo Sabres' center crossed the continent, heading from Vancouver to Florida so he could be in place for this weekend's NHL All-Star Game festivities.

Like all the players, Eichel is scheduled to take part in All-Star Media Day Saturday morning at the Grand Hyatt on Tampa's waterfront and the All-Star Skills Competition Saturday night at 7 in Amalie Arena (NBCSN). The game, featuring 3-on-3 matchups by division, is in the arena Sunday at 3:30 on NBC.

Eichel will be making his first All-Star appearance at perhaps the hottest point of his career. He's a point-a-game player for the first time (49 points in 49 games), and has hit the 20-goal mark for the third straight year. He has 25 points in 17 games since Dec. 15, tied for the NHL scoring lead in that span with Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon.

Mike Harrington: For Eichel, All-Star nod is perfectly timed

Eichel will play for the Atlantic Division team coached by Tampa Bay's Jon Cooper. The Lightning will also be represented by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and forwards Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. They are the only team with more than two players in the game.

Also on Eichel's team are Montreal goalie Carey Price, defensemen Mike Green (Detroit) and Erik Karlsson (Ottawa) and forwards Aleksander Barkov (Florida), Brad Marchand (Boston) and Auston Matthews (Toronto).

All players are expected to participate in at least two events in the six-event skills competition. For the first time, there's money at stake with the winner of each event getting $25,000.

The six skill events include returnees Fastest Skater, Hardest Shot and Accuracy Shooting, and three newcomers: Passing Challenge, Save Streak and Puck Control Relay. It would stand to reason that Fastest Skater might be one event for Eichel, whose long stride is the envy of the NHL and could be a challenge to defending champion Connor McDavid of Edmonton.

All players will take part in Save Streak, which turns the old shootout challenge on its ear by focusing on goalies to see who can make the most consecutive saves. Puck Control relay will force players to stickhandle in random directions through lighted gates. Passing Challenge will also see random lights dictate a player's passing and they will have to perform a give-and-go and put pucks into a tiny net.

The Accuracy Shooting contest has been modified to eliminate the styrofoam targets in each corner of the net that have become so familiar over the years. It will also use random lighted targets, directing players to aim for those.

Sabres' message after unreal road trip: 'This was no fluke'

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Defenseman Zach Bogosian's season is over as the Sabres announced he will undergo hip surgery next week and will need an estimated 4-6 months to recover. The injury initially took place during the third period of the final preseason game against the New York Islanders and prevented Bogosian from making his season debut until Dec. 1. Bogosian played only 18 games, recording just one assist, before going on the shelf for good again after suffering a different lower-body injury in practice Jan. 10.

The team had said Bogosian would be out 4-6 weeks with that injury and it was during the early treatment process for it that Bogosian and the team opted to have surgery on the hip.

“The news regarding Zach’s injury is unfortunate,” General Manager Jason Botterill said in a statement. “Zach has been dealing with this injury since the beginning of the season. After consulting with our medical team, we felt that it was important to get this taken care of now so that he can be back to full strength and ready to contribute at the beginning of next season.”

Bogosian has been placed on injured reserve and is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in September. The 27-year0old missed 18 games in 2015-16, his first full season with Buffalo, and sat out 26 games last season. By playing only 18 games this year, Bogosian will have played just 138 out of 246 games with the Sabres over the last three seasons.

Bogosian has two seasons left on the seven-year, $36 million contract he signed with Winnipeg in 2013 that the Sabres assumed when the trade was made. He has a cap hit of $5,142,857.

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Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly finished third in balloting for the Lady Byng Trophy in a midseason poll conducted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and released Friday as part of All-Star Weekend.

The PHWA voted on “Half Season” Awards through 1968, but the annual practice fell off the radar soon after the advent of the modern-day NHL All-Star Game in 1969. The Midseason Awards were revived this season to include a fan element, with more than 150 writers and broadcasters and 2,000 fans casting ballots in 10 categories.

The Lady Byng goes to the player judged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. O'Reilly finished third in the Byng ballot to Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau and Toronto's Auston Matthews.

O'Reilly has 13 goals and 20 assists this season, with just one minor penalty. He leads the NHL in faceoff percentage at 61.4. O'Reilly won the award in 2014 with Colorado after collecting 64 points and becoming just the second player in NHL history to play 80 games and have just one minor.

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The Sabres returned defenseman Matt Tennyson to Rochester Friday. With Josh Gorges ill and Nathan Beaulieu returning home with a concussion suffered Monday in Calgary, Tennyson joined the club on its Western road trip as insurance but did not play.

After Friday's game in Toronto, the Amerks head to the All-Star break following Saturday's game in Belleville. Forward C.J. Smith and goaltender Linus Ullmark will be heading to Utica for the AHL All-Star Classic on Sunday and Monday.

Tennyson has one assist and a minus-7 rating in 23 games for the Amerks this year. He had no points and a minus-8 rating in 14 games for Buffalo earlier in the season.

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