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Sabres Notebook: Cancer relapses for commercial star; penalty trouble; Wilson shines

During the Buffalo Sabres' home games this month, the team is playing a fundraising commercial starring Ryan O'Reilly, Martin Biron, Sabretooth and a 5-year-old girl named Isabella Phelan. With a bow in her hair, she smiles throughout the ad for cancer-fighting "Bald for Bucks."

The commercial is light-hearted, but it's taken on a sadder tone. Biron revealed Phelan has suffered a relapse of her cancer.

The news hit the young girl's co-stars hard.

"I've seen her a bunch of times, and she's soooo sweet," O'Reilly said Friday in KeyBank Center. "She's so nice. It's tough.

"Obviously, her story is really tough. She's been through so much. That's awful. I really hope she's doing well and things will be OK."

Biron, one of the Sabres' studio analysts, will have his head shaved live during the Feb. 25 game broadcast by studio host Brian Duff. Biron's Bald for Bucks fundraising page is now dedicated to Phelan.

"I am sending her and her family thoughts and prayers, and hope that you will do the same," Biron wrote.

Phelan's family provided Biron with an address for those who desire to send well-wishes:

Isabella Phelan
C/o Courage of Carly Fund
Roswell Park Alliance Foundation
Elm and Carlton Streets
Buffalo, NY 14263

There will be a Bald for Bucks stand set up in the arena during Saturday's home game against Los Angeles.

"She's a sweet girl that I loved being around, always had a smile on her face," O'Reilly said. "Her family, too, they were always so grateful to be around and it was so nice to have them around. It's very sad. She's a special person."

Sabres cut it close for cancer fundraiser


A couple of familiar faces are in town with the Kings. Rookie forward Alex Iafallo is an Eden native who has six goals and 19 points in 55 games. Assistant coach Pierre Turgeon played for Buffalo from 1987 to 1991 after being drafted first overall by the Sabres.

Turgeon and Housley were teammates in Buffalo for three seasons.

"Pierre was a terrific player," Housley said. "One of the things I remember is the smile on his face coming to the rink every day, just trying to get better and playing the game. He had a very high passion level, and he was a great teammate."

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The Sabres have had to kill 33 penalties in the last eight games. The short-handed unit has been pushed into action five times in each of the last three games.

Housley has had enough.

"We addressed the penalty situation," the coach said. "Certainly, we do not want to get in the box. It just takes away the flow of our bench. We're spending energy killing penalties.

"Guys did a terrific job, but there's no need for that, especially when we're 200 feet away from our net, and it's just the calls that are being made with high-sticking, hooking, holding. We've just got to use our feet, get in position and get on top of people. We didn't do that."

How do you sell Sabres tickets that no one wants? You don't.


The Sabres' line of Johan Larsson centering for left wing Scott Wilson and right wing Jason Pominville has been together for two games. It has two goals, both by Wilson.

The trio will skate out for a third time against the Kings.

"I really liked that line," Housley said. "They were pretty tenacious. They've been playing really well together. They have good chemistry."

Wilson, acquired from Detroit in December, has four goals and seven points in the last 11 games. He had one goal and one assist in his first 14 games with Buffalo.

"Wilson does a lot of the little things well – blocking shots, taking hits to make plays, drives the net, has a shot mentality – and that mix right there has been really good for us," Housley said.

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