It's time for the Winter Olympics, which means it is time for Phil Housley to let his patriotism show.
"I was part of USA Hockey, and I'm always rooting for USA Hockey," the Buffalo Sabres coach said Wednesday. "I've got deep roots there. USA Hockey really had an impact on my life whether I was playing or being a coach, so I'm all for the red, white and blue."
The Minnesota native represented the United States in the 2002 Olympics, six world championships (1982, '86, '89, 2000, 2001, 2003), one world juniors (1982), the Canada Cup (1984) and the World Cup (1996). He is also a seven-time member of USA Hockey coaching staffs.
So when the opening ceremonies commence Friday and the puck drops Wednesday, Housley will be watching.
"I'm always interested in all aspects of the Winter Olympics and trying to root on our country and the people representing it," Housley said in KeyBank Center. "It's going to be interesting this year to see how this plays out. We're putting a team together without NHL players.
"You might want to think that the Russians or the European teams might have a little bit of an edge because they have their groups together before they're heading to the Olympics, so it'll be interesting to see how that plays out."
The gambling website Bovada has the Olympic Athletes from Russia as even-money favorites, followed by Canada, Sweden (9-to-2 each), Finland (8-to-1), Czech Republic (9-to-1) and the USA (10-to-1).
The United States will be captained by former Sabres forward Brian Gionta.
"I played with Brian Gionta in 2000 on the U.S. team," Housley said of the world championships. "I haven't really looked at the roster real hard, but when those games come I go, 'I know that guy. I coached him.' "
The U.S. team also features defenseman Will Borgen, a 21-year-old from St. Cloud State who was drafted by Buffalo in the fourth round in 2015.
"He's really had a solid season," Housley said of Borgen, who has two goals and 12 points in 26 games. "I know the scouts that have watched him have really good praise for him. It'll be interesting to see how he plays."
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The Sabres weren't sure if they'll have Jake McCabe back for Thursday's visit by the New York Islanders. Johan Larsson will be in the lineup.
McCabe left Tuesday's loss to Anaheim after suffering an upper-body injury during the first period. The defenseman's most memorable moment was a net-side scrum with the Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf, but Housley said Wednesday that was not when McCabe got nicked up.
"It was a shot that he took during the first period," the coach said. "Jake is with our doctors as we speak, so we'll know more later."
Larsson was one of 12 players to take the ice for a short optional workout. He has completed his two-game suspension and is eligible to return.
"I'd figure Larsson in the lineup," Housley said.
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The Buffalo Sabres have once again partnered with "Bald for Bucks" and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center to raise funds to support critical cancer research and patient-care programs.
As part of the effort, the Sabres and Bald for Bucks have released limited-edition T-shirts. Donors who contribute $50 or more will receive the T-shirt and have a chance to win autographed merchandise, tickets to future Sabres games and meet-and-greet opportunities.
Donations may be made at Sabres.com/BaldForBucks or at the arena during home games on Thursday and Feb. 17 and 25.
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The Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association will host its 14th annual Sabres Alumni Wine Festival from 6-9:30 p.m. March 28 in KeyBank Center. The event will feature samples from wineries and restaurants from Buffalo, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and beyond.
The festival will also include music, auctions and raffles with unique items from the Sabres and Sabres Alumni. Tickets are $75 each and are available at Sabres.com/winefest, the arena box office or by calling Nick Fearby at 855-4452. Businesses interested in sponsorship opportunities can contact Teresa Belbas at 855-4588 or Teresa.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
All proceeds from the event will benefit breast cancer care in Western New York. Attendees are asked to dress in business attire. There will be complimentary parking in the ramp adjacent to KeyBank Center.