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Sabres Notebook: Buffalo set to honor Pfalzer; O'Reilly quick on draw

Gold medal-winner Emily Pfalzer is returning to Buffalo, and she's in for a busy weekend.

The Getzville native, who helped the U.S. women win Olympic gold last month, will take part in a hockey doubleheader and the St. Patrick's Day parade. The Sabres and Beauts will recognize her before their games Saturday, and she will march Sunday.

Pfalzer will conduct the ceremonial faceoff at 1 p.m. Saturday when the Sabres host the Chicago Blackhawks in KeyBank Center. She will then head across the street to HarborCenter for the Beauts' National Women's Hockey League playoff game against the Boston Pride. Pfalzer will sign autographs from 4:45-5:15 p.m., then conduct the ceremonial faceoff at 5:30 p.m.

The 24-year-old was captain of the Beauts in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, leading Buffalo to the Isobel Cup last year.

Pfalzer will also march in Buffalo’s 78th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade with Mayor Byron Brown on Sunday.

Inspiring celebration continues for Emily Pfalzer, U.S. women's team

It will be Pfalzer's second Sabres game since the Olympics. Tampa Bay hosted the Sabres and the U.S. women Feb. 28.

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Ryan O'Reilly stepped into the circle Thursday night against Toronto with 200 more faceoff wins than anyone else in the NHL. Though he's clearly focusing on the skill, he's not obsessing over it.

"You can't win a draw by thinking about it," the Sabres center said. "You've just got to go do it. The more aware you are, the more present you are, the more success you'll have. That's what I try to do, just try to take it one at a time and go from there."

The league instituted new rules this season to prevent cheating on faceoffs. Centers must face each other squarely with their feet planted behind red lines. It's changed the focus from angles and positioning to reflexes and dexterity.

"This year, obviously, I think it's really helped out," O'Reilly said. "I have a very stiff stick, so that gives me an advantage over a lot of guys. It's something that I've been able to use."

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O'Reilly entered the game with 1,075 victories and 683 losses in 1,758 draws for a league-best 61.1 percent success rate. Anaheim's Antoine Vermette was second at 60 percent, while Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby was second in victories (867) and draws (1,659).

"I don’t think it's as important of a piece as it needs to be," O'Reilly said. "There's so much else going on in the game now. It's what you do when you have the puck and how you get it back and all those little things, but I have been confident in there this year."

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The Sabres will sell St. Patrick's Day-themed pucks Saturday, with all proceeds benefiting the Sabres' foundation. The autographed pucks will be sold for $20 in the 100 Level prior to the game. Sabres wives and girlfriends will assist with the sale.

Buffalo will wear green St. Patrick’s Day jerseys for warmups. The sweaters will go up for auction immediately following the game at Sabres.com/auction. The auction will run until 9 p.m. March 25.

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The Maple Leafs made a goaltending move prior to the game, recalling Garret Sparks on an emergency basis. No. 1 netminder Frederik Andersen left Wednesday's victory over Dallas with an upper-body injury.

"I don't think there's much going on there," Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "It sure didn't seem like much."

Curtis McElhinney started against Buffalo. He entered with an 8-4-1 record and .929 save percentage. Andersen is 33-18-5 with a .919.

Sparks has been dynamic for the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League. He is 24-8-2 with a .936 save percentage and 1.78 goals-against average.

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