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After enjoying Edmonton turnaround, Pouliot is believer in Buffalo

Benoit Pouliot has seen a team rise from the depths. The Edmonton Oilers were a laughingstock in 2014. They were a goal away from reaching the Western Conference final last season.

Pouliot sees no reason why the Sabres can't do the same thing.

"In Edmonton when I got there, I think it was the worst year I've ever had playing in the NHL," the left winger said Saturday. "We were so down. The coach got fired during the year, and things weren't going well.

"But we had so many good draft picks. We had so many young guys coming up and learning experience. I think the situation here is the same."

Pouliot quickly pointed out how Jack Eichel can make an impact like Connor McDavid. He likened Sam Reinhart to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Essentially, Pouliot is a believer in Buffalo.

"Things can turn around quickly, especially when you get new management, new coaches and everything," he said in HarborCenter.

Pouliot joined the Sabres on July 1, signing a one-year deal after the Oilers bought him out. The 30-year-old was perennially in the 15-goal, 35-point range, but he struggled with just eight goals and 14 points in 67 games last year.

The Sabres hope they got a bargain at $1.15 million.

"Last year was a tough year personally," Pouliot said. "It was my worst one ever. It was a frustrating year, long year. The only good thing is we went pretty far in the playoffs and it was a good jump for the team.

"My role is the same as I used to play, create the speed, push their D back, (make them) turn the puck over. The young guys are going to stickhandle. For me, it's just turning the puck over, go in front of the net and create some chances."

Pouliot spent the first two days of training camp with Reinhart as his center and former Kontinental Hockey League scorer Stevie Moses on the right wing. As someone who used to have McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins as his centers, Pouliot has been impressed with Reinhart.

"He's very intelligent with the puck," Pouliot said. "That's nice when you get a chance to play with a guy like that because it makes your game a little easier. You just put yourself in a good position and he's going to get it back to you or put some pressure on their D for me and then he'll make the play."

Pouliot sees the potential. He hopes it translates when the puck drops for real next month.

"The past few years haven't been very good here," Pouliot said. "It was the same situation as I was in Edmonton when I first signed there, and things got better every year that I was there. It's just fun to see the turnaround. It's fun to see how guys can pick it up and have a good year and at least make the playoffs."

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