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Sabres Notebook: Jaunt to Michigan part of Hockeyville USA contest

The Buffalo Sabres won't be playing in any routine preseason game Tuesday night.

The Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes will be playing in a newly renovated rink in Marquette, Mich., on the state's Upper Peninsula. It was chosen last year as the winning city for the second annual Kraft Hockeyville USA contest, which provides $150,000 in arena upgrades and an NHL preseason game to the selected town. And the game will be nationally televised at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.

"Doc Emrick is going to be on the mic," coach Dan Bylsma said of NBC's longtime top play-by-play man. "It's a preseason game and we need it to get our game back in us and the timing of our game in some aspects. At the same time, it kind of has an outdoor game type of feel to it. It's a spectacle. It is a performance.

"It's an old-time feel. I've been there a few times. This is a return-to-the-roots-of-hockey type of feel to it. It's not just an exhibition game we're trying to click off the schedule so it is a bit of a performance. I'm going to be jacked up to play it."

Emrick will doing the play-by-play with top NBC analysts Pierre McGuire and Jeremy Roenick. The game will be hosted by University at Buffalo graduate Liam McHugh, the network's No. 1 pre/postgame and intermission moderator.

The game will be played in the the 3,100-seat Lakeview Arena, which opened in 1974. It was chosen in an online vote of 10 finalists out of more than 1,000 entries. It received repairs to areas such as the dehumidification system, locker rooms, Zamboni, lights, glass, benches, end netting and sound system.

The Sabres will fly to Michigan Tuesday morning and hold their morning skate there in front of what figures to be a sizable audience. Bylsma said he played in the building in a tournament when he was 11 or 12 and again at 15. It is about seven hours from his hometown of Grand Haven, Mich.

Sabres television analyst and former Detroit Red Wings forward Brad May did autograph signings and an on-ice youth clinic in Marquette on Sunday as part of a fanfest in advance of the game at nearby Northern Michigan University. The Stanley Cup was also brought to the town for pictures with fans.

The Sabres played Montreal in a Canadian version of Hockeyville in 2008 in Roberval, Quebec and met Ottawa in Dundas, Ont., in 2010. The American version debuted last year in Johnstown, Pa., with a game between Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.


Bylsma said center Jack Eichel will make his preseason debut Tuesday night after returning from his stint with Team North America at the World Cup. But Buffalo's lineup for the final week of the exhibition season may have taken another hit Monday when winger Kyle Okposo left the KeyBank Center ice after taking a slapshot to the knee during practice.

Bylsma said Okposo, the team's $42 million free agent signee, is questionable for the team's two-game road trip against Carolina that continues with a rematch against the Canes Wednesday in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

"He's got quite a big bruise," said Bylsma. "Just a slapshot to an area he didn't have any padding."

The coach said Okposo would be getting further medical attention to check the swelling in the knee later Monday afternoon.


The team is already making the trip without defenseman Zach Bogosian (groin) and winger Nicholas Baptiste (back). Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who left his Buffalo debut Friday in Toronto with a bruised back and tailbone, has not been ruled out of the two games but Bylsma said that's likely the outcome.

The Sabres return home to practice Thursday and then head right back on the road for the preseason finale Friday night in Ottawa.


Unsigned defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen continued to skate with the team and even got some work in on the power play but obviously isn't part of the trip without a deal. Ristolainen and the Sabres have agreed to not have him speak to the media while his contract is still being worked on.



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