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Varone’s first NHL goal is dream come true

It took Phil Varone 27 games with the Rochester Americans to notch his first goal as a professional hockey player.

It only took him four to score his first in the National Hockey League.

Taking a feed from Marcus Foligno, Varone was in perfect position in front of Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby to fire the puck into the net.

His goal at 11:11 of the second period was part of a wild offensive night for the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Capitals at First Niagara Center Tuesday night.

“It’s every kid’s dream,” Varone said of his first NHL goal. “I thought about it a lot, ever since I got called up. … It’s a good weight off the shoulders obviously but I wish it would have come in a win. It would have felt a lot better.”

Varone earned his first NHL call-up on Jan. 22 and picked up an assist in his big league debut against Carolina on Jan. 23.

At the time of his promotion, Varone led the Rochester Americans with 33 points in 38 AHL games (eight goals, 25 assists).

He’s keeping things simple with the Sabres.

“I think more in the ‘A’ I try to control the puck around the perimeter and find my teammates,” said Varone of his style with the minors. “Here I need to be a little more simple and that’s why I’m just trying to get to the net more. I’m going to start hopefully feeling more comfortable and making plays with the puck but for right now I’m just going to go to the net and hopefully bang a few in.

“The more games you play the more you’re going to understand what you need to do to create space for yourself and to get open. That’s been my focus right now. Once I get more comfortable I’ll be able to make more plays with the puck. “

The 23-year old was a fifth-round draft pick of San Jose and signed by the Sabres as a free agent.

He played 76 games for the Amerks in 2011-12 season, recording 52 points (11 goals, 41 assists). Last season in 62 games with Rochester he had 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists).


The NHL is considering a pitch from the Sabres to relocate its annual pre-draft scouting combine from Toronto to the new HarborCenter project being built adjacent to First Niagara Center.

Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed the team’s interest during a telephone interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday about the $172 million facility, slated to open this fall.

“It’s something that’s being discussed, and I know it’s something that Ted Black is vigorously pursuing,” Bettman said, referring to the Sabres president. “It’s a work in progress. We haven’t made any decisions. But we’re taking the expression of interest very seriously.”

The combine is run by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau and is traditionally held in Toronto in late May. It brings together the league’s top draft-eligible prospects for off-ice testing and workouts.

“It came up in conversations we had with the league starting around the time when the HarborCenter project was announced,” Black said Tuesday night in a text to The News. “We have told the league that we would be prepared to host the NHL Combine as early as 2015. No timetable on a decision but discussions ongoing.”


To no one’s surprise, Jamie McBain was a healthy scratch for the Sabres on Tuesday. The defenseman was, well, awful, in Monday night’s loss at Pittsburgh, and interim coach Ted Nolan wants to see good, consistent play regardless of the score.

McBain failed woefully in that regard, so he sat.

“I just want to see better,” Nolan said. “As with every player on this team you’ve got to be better. There are a couple others in the same boat but the bottom line is we have to be better. No other way to put it. Especially with the team we have. We can’t afford one or two bad blunders and turnovers and not concentrating. This is a 60-minute game. We have to play that way all the time and if we don’t, we’re going to get ourselves in trouble no matter how good our goaltending is.”

A whiff on a clearing pass by McBain in the second period Monday led to Pittsburgh’s first goal. It was the first benching for McBain since he sat four straight games at the end of November. He returned to the lineup Dec. 5 and played in 22 straight games, ranking third on the team in average ice time per game (20:04).


Along with McBain, Linus Omark was a healthy scratch while Drew Stafford was out with an injury. ... Cody Hodgson scored twice for his sixth career two-goal game. He has 10 points in nine games since returning from a hand injury which sidelined him for eight games. ... Tyler Ennis now has 10 points in his last seven games against the Capitals. ... Christian Ehrhoff’s goal gives him nine points in his last 11 games.