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Dads' trip marches on to Nashville for Sabres' matchup with Predators

NASHVILLE — Jimmy Vesey didn't need to score to make this a successful dads' trip for him and his father, James.

The goal made for a special moment, though. James erupted in an American Airlines Center suite Thursday night when Jimmy scored the opening goal of the Buffalo Sabres' 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

Jimmy, a 26-year-old winger, discovered following the game that his father's reaction was captured by the Sabres and posted on social media. He wasn't surprised by the boyish grin on James' face, either.

"It's funny," Vesey recalled following practice Friday in Bridgestone Arena. "Pretty cool though to have him here. He gets into the games, and he was my coach growing up, so he loves it. It’s good to have him here. Big win for us in front of the dads."

This dads' trip has been somewhat of a reversal in roles for fathers and sons. While the Sabres engaged in their pregame stretch Thursday morning in Dallas, their dads walked around the arena with the excitable nature of teenagers and watched the Stars' skate from the lower bowl. They also received a tour of the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium and a gracious thank you from coach Ralph Krueger and his staff.

As the Sabres prepared for practice Friday in Bridgestone Arena, each of their respective fathers wore a 50th anniversary alternate jersey with the son's name and number. They posed for pictures prior to the team practicing in preparation for its game Saturday night against the Nashville Predators.

Even Victor Olofsson, who is out with a lower-body injury, made the trip with his dad, Tony. Childhood stories were shared. Fathers who knew each other rekindled friendships, while others bonded over their sons' success.

Krueger told the media Thursday morning that he and his staff needed to ensure his players were focused when it came to preparing for two talented opponents in a final stretch before the All-Star break. However, he also beamed when discussing the joys of having the dads on the trip.

"It’s always a special treat for the players, I think, to have their home life with them for a few days," Krueger said. "There are so many memories there I’m sure between the fathers and the sons of how the player got here, why he’s here in the first place, and the fathers and mothers are always the biggest part of that. It’s good to have half of that leadership team here, and they seem to be feeding off of it. We had a wonderful afternoon and evening together (Wednesday), and we’re going to continue through the trip."

Success in Smashville

The Predators (21-18-7) are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and entered Friday six points behind the Edmonton Oilers for the second wild-card playoff spot. Nashville isn't having much success in Bridgestone Arena, either. It has the sixth-fewest home points in the league this season.

The Sabres have won three of their last four games in what is referred to by Predators fans as Smashville. Buffalo beat Nashville, 4-3, on Dec. 12 in KeyBank Center. Special teams have been an issue for Nashville. The Predators entered Friday with the 25th-best power play and ranked 31st on the penalty kill.

They are 2-3 since John Hynes was hired as coach Dec. 7.

Cozens returns

Sabres prospect Dylan Cozens returned to the Lethbridge Hurricanes' lineup Friday night for the first time since he won a gold medal with Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship. Cozens, who was drafted seventh overall by Buffalo in June, was given additional time off by Lethbridge upon returning from Czech Republic.

Cozens had two goals among nine points in seven games during the tournament.

"Despite the fact it was his first world juniors, the coaching staff used him in every situation," Sabres Assistant General Manager Randy Sexton said of Cozens. "He took key draws, he played the wing on the top line. He got a lot of first power play time. Did some PK work. He showed all of the things that we value in a player and what we were excited about Dylan when we drafted him: his speed, his skill, his competitiveness, his versatility. All of that was on display. … He should be ready to take off and have a real strong second half here."

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