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Sabres Notebook: Team success leads to individual honors; Beaulieu practices

The individual honors are nice. Of course they are.

But Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner is quick to point out that those honors come about because of team success.

"It's always nice but my teammates made it easy for me," said Lehner on Monday after he was named the NHL's third star of the week. Forward Jack Eichel was the second star while Vancouver forward Brock Boeser was the first star. "The honors that both me and Jack got, every single one of us is a part of that."

Lehner had back-to-back shutouts before the All-Star break. He made 33 saves in the 5-0 win in Edmonton then made 30 saves in the 4-0 win over Vancouver becoming the first Sabres goaltender to post consecutive shutouts since Ryan Miller did it Feb. 29-March 1, 2012.

But Lehner called those shutouts the "least hard games" he's had this season.

"I think I saw one odd-man rush in two games and I didn't have to make that many big ones and I think it was a great step for us as a team," Lehner said. "When we play like that as a team, that's when individuals are going to get success, too, not the other way around."

Eichel led the NHL last week with five points (two goals, three assists) in the Sabres three wins. He started by scoring his third career overtime goal in a 2-1 win at Calgary then followed the next night with his third career four-point performance (one goal, three assists) in Buffalo's 5-0 win over Edmonton. He was held without a point in the Sabres 4-0 win over Vancouver but then made his NHL All-Star Game debut on Sunday.

Eichel has 20 goals and 49 points through 49 games, becoming the fourth player in franchise history to reach the 20-goal mark in each of his first three seasons joining Gilbert Perreault, Richard Martin and Thomas Vanek.

* * *

Welcome back, Brian Gionta. Well, at least for one game.

The Rochester Americans announced that Gionta, former captain of the Buffalo Sabres, is expected to be in the lineup Friday when the Amerks host the Toronto Marlies in Blue Cross Arena. The team signed Gionta to a one-game professional tryout contract for the game.

The game will serve as a tuneup for Gionta, who was named captain of Team USA for the upcoming Olympic Games. The 39-year-old Gionta, a native of Rochester, has been practicing with the Amerks since October.

"Brian has been practicing with us on a regular basis since early in the season," Amerks general manager Randy Sexton said in a team release. "These practices were part of his preparation for the Olympics and, given the Olympics are just around the corner, a game was the final tune-up for him to get ready to captain the U.S. Olympic team. The entire Buffalo Sabres organization wishes Brian all the very best in his pursuit of a gold medal."

* * *

Remember when Rex Ryan pledged his allegiance to the Buffalo Sabres?

Yeah, those days are gone.

The former Buffalo Bills coach has resumed his very public love of the Toronto Maple Leafs and was rather colorful about it in an interview with John Kryk of the Toronto Sun.

When Ryan was hired by Terry and Kim Pegula, he proclaimed his fandom for the Sabres, also owned by the Pegulas. After being fired in December 2016, his hockey loyalty went back to the Maple Leafs.

Once upon a time, Ryan sported a variety of Sabres jerseys. No more.

“Oh no, I got rid of every one of them – every damn one of them,” Ryan told Kryk.

“As soon as I got fired by the Pegulas, I was like, no chance. I got rid of all my Sabres stuff. I had the (Roger) Crozier jersey, the French Connection jerseys … I got rid of every damn one of them.”

* * *

Nathan Beaulieu was back at practice Monday after missing the last two games with an upper body injury.

Beaulieu suffered the injury against Calgary in a fight with the Flames' Curtis Lazar where his chin hit the ice.

"I'm feeling good," Beaulieu said after practice on Monday. "Obviously it was a pretty scary incident but feel really fortunate with my results so I'm happy with where I'm at right now. It's just a day to day process."

It's the fourth time this season Beaulieu has been out between injury and illness, limiting the defenseman to just 33 games.

"Yeah, it's been crazy," Beaulieu said of his time on the injured list this season. "I've been really lucky in my career. I've been fairly healthy my whole career. Coming here it's been tough with four different instances where I've been out with different injuries and it's just frustrating."

* * *

The Sabres announced that Tom Tzetzo will receive the 2018 J. Michael Duffett Memorial Award at Tuesday's game. The award, named after Duffett who played at Nichols and Clarkson and worked in the Sabres hockey department until his death following a battle with cancer, recognizes a coach or administrator whose contributions in Western New York amateur hockey "best exemplify the knowledge, teaching, love of the game, and gentle humanity of Mike."

The award was established in 1984, the same year Tzetzo began working with Amherst Youth Hockey as a house and travel team coach.

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