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Sabres Notebook: Gearing up for Amerks' postseason; Ullmark makes trip

The Buffalo Sabres have two games left. Brendan Guhle, Casey Nelson, Nick Baptiste, Alex Nylander, Kevin Porter and Linus Ullmark have as many as 29 remaining.

That's fine by them.

After the Sabres close the NHL season Friday in Tampa Bay and Saturday in Florida, the organization will send the aforementioned players back to Rochester. The Amerks have five regular-season games remaining as a tuneup for the playoffs. They hope the postseason goes on for four rounds.

"We'd all want nothing more than to go win a championship," Nelson said Thursday in KeyBank Center. "You can almost call it a second chance for a few of us to go make some noise in the playoffs."

Rochester has clinched an American Hockey League postseason spot, but its first-round opponent has yet to be determined. The Amerks (34-20-17) are in third place in the North Division with 85 points, and Utica is in fourth place with 83. The third-place team will play Syracuse (43-20-7) while the fourth-place team will face Toronto (51-18-2).

No matter the opponent, the current Sabres and former/future Amerks see championship potential.

"We have a really good shot at making a good run and some noise," Nelson said. "Hopefully, we'll have the city of Rochester rocking."

The Amerks haven't made the playoffs since 2013-14. Buffalo's minor-league team hasn't won a playoff series since 2010-11, when the prospects played in Portland, Maine.

"It would be great to get some playoff experience," Baptiste said. "It's obviously something I haven't done in a couple years now, and it would be exciting to try and win with a great group of guys down there."

Belief in team play nearly nonexistent for Sabres

The Amerks have stayed afloat despite a litany of callups, including extended ones. To have Guhle, Nelson, Baptiste and Ullmark return will be a boost now and in the future.

"There's going to be four, five, six, seven guys from that team coming up here," Porter said. "If they're used to losing, it's going to continue up here. But if we can get down there and go on a long playoff run and hopefully win a Calder Cup, that experience for them is going to translate up here."


Ullmark, who has missed the Sabres' last five games with a concussion, joined the team for its season-ending road trip. It's possible he plays, though Chad Johnson and Adam Wilcox also flew to the Sunshine State.

Fellow goaltender Robin Lehner stayed in Buffalo, so his season is over because of a lower-body injury. Lehner went 14-26-9 with a .908 save percentage and 3.01 goals-against average.


Rookie Casey Mittelstadt started Wednesday's loss to Ottawa as the center for left wing Alex Nylander and right wing Kyle Okposo. Mittelstadt also took shifts as the left winger for center Jack Eichel.

"He makes the game a bit easier for everyone around him, so that's pretty nice," Mittelstadt said. "Like everyone said, he's got a ton of skill. He's one of the best skaters in the league and can make plays with the puck that very few guys can.

"Anytime you get to play with a guy like that it's pretty nice."

What's next for Buffalo's aging KeyBank Center?

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