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Sabres GM Jason Botterill opens up on effort, Eichel, chats with Pegula

The losses are painful enough. What irritates Buffalo Sabres fans even more is hearing that players lack pride and effort.

They've heard it game after game.

"Where some of the frustration comes from, even our own players, I think there is a work ethic," Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill said Thursday. "I think they are working, but on a game-by-game basis it's one player working hard and not all of the players working hard at the same time. Or you see one line going well, and the other lines not going well. The penalty killing has improved this year, but then the power play's slipped.

"There has to be more of a consistency for us to be a consistent team."

They've been consistently bad, but that's not what Botterill was expecting as the new general manager. Buffalo is 6-15-4 as it starts back-to-back nights against Botterill's old team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I think we could have a long discussion on are we better than our record, worse than our record," Botterill said in KeyBank Center. "The bottom line is our record's our record. What we're looking for, we're looking for players to help us out of our situation here, players who want to improve and want to become a part of the solution here."

To find the right players, Botterill is evaluating Buffalo and Rochester. The teams are wildly different.

The last-place Sabres are 1-7-2 in the last 10 games and, generally speaking, in a miserable place. Players are much happier in Rochester as the Amerks have started 11-5-4, good for sixth overall in the 30-team American Hockey League.

It's tough to sell patience and the future to a fan base that has heard the sales pitch for too long, but there's not much choice as the Sabres continue to bottom out.

"We're very excited about the steps a team like Rochester has made," Botterill said. "Are we where we want to be? No, but at least especially at forward down in Rochester, I think there's a lot of internal competition down there for the call up.

"It's something we have to do more throughout our entire organization, have more internal competition for spots up here in Buffalo, more internal competition for our prospects and guys we want to sign, and guys ready for a call up from the American Hockey League up to the National Hockey League."

It was evident from his hiring in May that Botterill would be more cheerful and upbeat than his predecessor, Tim Murray. The GM had good things to say on several topics, none more so than organizational communication.

Botterill is impressed with how coach Phil Housley is critiquing the players after games and teaching them at practice. The GM likes how the Sabres' leaders are talking with each other and Housley. He likes the regular chats between the coaches in Buffalo and Rochester.

Botterill has also had plenty of talks with owner Terry Pegula.

"He's been very supportive with everything that's been going on," Botterill said. "From Day One when I took the job here, I had to make sure that we were on the same page of what we had to accomplish here and the steps we had to make.

"We've sat down in meetings to discuss where our team's at, not just the situation in Buffalo but our entire organization. Like any owner, like our fans, you want better on-ice success and a better on-ice record. What we've tried to explain to him is, 'Hey, these are the steps we want to take to improve that record.'

"This is a very difficult league. There's a ton of parity throughout the entire league, and I've loved the compete that our team has shown and the resilience to show that it can come back, but we can't be chasing games all the time. We have to have that desperation, that jump at the start of the game."

As the Sabres struggle, reviews have been mixed for star center Jack Eichel. People are looking at his demeanor and numbers, which include seven goals and 19 points in 25 games.

"There's mixed reviews I'm sure for Jack because of the offensive production," Botterill said. "But what I've absolutely loved from Jack is that competitive nature that he has and has shown. He's interacted with Phil, and he wants to improve as a player.

"He's more had more difficult matchups this year. Simple things such as the penalty kill, he's done a very nice job on that aspect. His speed is such an asset, and I think you've seen that in recent games. I think he's utilized it a little bit more. I think the only thing that's sort of missing now is success on the power play.

"I've seen it throughout the league. Star players have that success on the power play, then it carries over more to even strength. Hopefully, we can get our power play going here and not only give our team a spark there, but I think it will give our players on the power play – not only Jack but all of our players on the power play – more confidence with the puck at even strength."

Sabres GM Jason Botterill still weighing what to do with Kane

Botterill has decisions coming on whether to trade scoring leader Evander Kane – he says he hasn't decided yet – and whether to allow Alex Nylander to represent Sweden at the world juniors in Buffalo from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. That might happen. Botterill will continue to talk with the Amerks forward and Swedish hockey officials.

"I'm a big believer of the tournament," Botterill said. "I think it's a great tournament for young players to play against their peers and represent their country.

"The fact the tournament is right here in Buffalo versus him traveling halfway around the world makes it an easier possibility."

Murray allowed Nylander to represent Sweden at last year's world junior tournament. The winger had five goals and 12 points in seven games.

Nylander has played just six games in Rochester this season after suffering an injury during the Sabres Prospect Challenge in September. The 19-year-old has one goal and three points.

'We'll continue to look at where his game's at over the next little bit, continue to talk to him and our coaches down in Rochester," Botterill said. "We're just looking at hey, what's the best thing for his development path right now?"

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