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Bogosian carrying the load for Sabres

Josh Gorges is gone for the year and Tyler Myers is gone for good.

Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov are kids whom the Buffalo Sabres don’t want to run into the ground in their first full NHL season.

Mike Weber is a solid blueliner for 14-18 minutes who tends to struggle when he gets over 20.

Andre Benoit, Andrej Meszaros and Tyson Strachan? Total Tankapalooza.

The saving grace on defense has only been here a month, but Zach Bogosian has been chomping minutes like Pac Man since he arrived from Winnipeg.

Bogosian has played more than 25 minutes in nine of his 12 games with Buffalo – and piled up an ice time total of 30:53 in Wednesday’s shootout loss in Toronto.

“I guess I figured it was going to be a bigger role here, but the more minutes you get as a player, you love that,” Bogosian said after practice Thursday in First Niagara Center. “I like where it’s going. I like those minutes, playing the big ones. You train hard for those.”

Bogosian only went over 25 minutes four times this year in 41 games in Winnipeg. His high with the Sabres is 32:23, set in the Feb. 19 shootout win at Philadelphia. He’s trying to watch his practice time to save his energy when it’s needed most.

“You have to be smart about things,” he said. “But as far as pacing myself, you just try to play the game that’s in front of you. Sometimes you’re going to be able to jump into the rush a little bit more, and other times you’ll have to play some shutdown D.”

Bogosian said his 30-minute night in Toronto was not as hard as it may sound.

“There’s other nights you play 24 and it feels like you played 30. It varies,” he said. “It’s a long season. You have to take care of yourself and be ready to be at a high level every night.”

Bogosian has four assists so far, but perhaps his most noteworthy stat is a plus-3 rating, pretty remarkable when you consider the Sabres remain on pace to be the lowest scoring team in the NHL’s expansion era.

When the Sabres made their blockbuster deal with Winnipeg on Feb. 11, Bogosian was the piece that got to play right away.

Evander Kane, of course, is out until the fall after shoulder surgery, so Bogosian was pretty much dealt straight up for Myers and had to fill the former Calder Trophy winner’s minutes.

“It was nice, actually,” Bogosian said. “I kind of slipped in under the radar with ‘Kaner’ and Tyler kind of being the headliners of the trade. It’s kind of how I like it. I wanted to come here and work hard, show my worth to the team and I think it’s gone well so far.”

“He’s a big man who’s like a big workhorse,” said coach Ted Nolan. “One thing about workhorses is you don’t take it easy with those guys, you just work him. That’s what he is. He’s a working-class defenseman that can log a lot of minutes and thankfully we got him.”

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Bogosian has added some snarl and physicality to the Buffalo defense that had been lacking. He’s a key penalty killer and has also had some chances at the point on the power play.

“You play that much, you’re always jumping over the boards,” he said. “You get in a groove, you’re more engaged in the game and more focused on what’s in front of you.”

Bogosian said he understands the Myers comparisons but clearly plays a different style.

“I knew Tyler had a big role here,” he said. “He’s a great player, and he’s doing really well in Winnipeg as well. As far as trying to fill a role and fill a certain role, I’m just trying to make my mark and play my own game.”


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