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Nylander finally finds the net

There was a visible sigh of relief from Alexander Nylander.

The Buffalo Sabres top draft choice in June was struggling during the two games of the 2016 Prospects Challenge. But with 2:34 left in Monday's game he took the puck, moved across the slot and fired the puck past Boston Bruin's goaltender Dan Vladar.

It was his first point with the Sabres. He picked up another by setting up Brendan Guhle's goal. It was a furious final five minutes in which the Sabres rally fell short in a 4-3 loss to Boston in HarborCenter. And it didn't erase the previous five periods of hockey where Nylander looked less than stellar.

But it was start.

"I got a really good pass and it was a relief when I scored so it was good to get the first one," Nylander said. "We had a good push during the end. We were playing good hockey. It was good play by us and I was lucky to get the goal there. I think I was better in the third. I've just got to bring that every game. We all have to play like that next game."

In Saturday's game against New Jersey, Nylander had no shots and was a minus-three.

Monday he finished with two points, one shot and was a plus-three.

"You could tell that he was a frustrated young man," said Dan Lambert who coached the Sabres prospects. "I'm sure it felt good for him to score that goal and then you saw his ability to pass the puck on the other goal. There's no doubt that the skill is there but the skill needs to work."

Nylander was visibly frustrated at times. He shook his head when he failed to keep the puck in during a second-period power play. Then there was a prime scoring opportunity where he was alone in front of Vladar, but the goalie poke-checked the puck off his stick.

"I think I did the wrong move," Nylander said. "I should have gone to my backhand. The guys were coming from that side. It was a bad play by me."

There's plenty of hype that comes with being a first-round draft choice, but Nylander doesn't think his lack of production during the two Prospects Challenge games was a result of that added pressure, internal or external.

"I just try to play my game every game and try to do my best," he said. "I don't really think I put pressure on me. I don't really think about that too much. Just try to go out there and do what I can do."

The Sabres also wanted to see what Nylander could do playing center. The staff moved him to the position, playing between Nicholas Baptiste and Hudson Fasching. Nylander has played most of his career at left wing, including last year in Mississauga where he scored 28 goals with 47 assists in 57 games.

"I think I can play everywhere -- right wing, left wing, center. Nothing unusual for me," Nylander said. "I would prefer left wing but wherever they put me I'll be satisfied  and try to do my best there."

The position shift was a response to Saturday's lack of production, an attempt to just try something different.

"When things aren't great you've got to try things and we just thought we'd try something," Lambert said. "Obviously it didn't work great although in the last five minutes something happened so maybe it wasn't that bad of a thought. But certainly I'm sure he'll be on the wing again."

So look for Nylander back on the wing when the Sabres open training camp. They begin with physicals on Thursday and take the ice on Friday. And these past few days have been a key for Nylander learning what it takes at the NHL level.

"To win games you've got to work hard and be your best every shift," Nylander said. "You can't be in the box or make turnovers because the other team scores on them. Just got to keep working hard, make simple plays and get pucks to the net. It was good training for  me to get these games in. I haven't had a game since last season so this was really good for me."

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