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Rasmus Dahlin, Johan Larsson miss Sabres practice for 'maintenance'

The Sabres were missing two more players when they practiced Monday in KeyBank Center.

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and center Johan Larsson, both of whom were in the lineup for a 2-1 overtime win over Columbus on Saturday, sat out the on-ice session for "maintenance," according to coach Ralph Krueger.

Both players' availability will be determined Tuesday morning, hours before the Sabres face the Colorado Avalanche in KeyBank Center. The maintenance designation is noteworthy since Brandon Montour was a late scratch Saturday against the Blue Jackets after sitting out practice for the same reason Friday.

Montour (lower body) and Zach Bogosian (illness) both practiced Monday and could be available against the Avalanche. Winger Kyle Okposo (upper body), meanwhile, is "weeks away" from returning, Krueger said.

Dahlin had one assist and a shot on goal in 17:10 of ice time against the Blue Jackets, while Larsson won 10 of 13 faceoffs during his 14:07 of ice time. Their absence Monday forced Krueger to throw together make-shift lines and pairings in preparation for Colorado (28-16-6), which is second in the Central Division and has a plus-33 goal differential this season.

Dahlin, 19, has one goal with eight assists in his last 10 games, and his 74 points through his first 126 games are the fourth-most by a teenage defenseman in NHL history. He trails Phil Housley (132), Ray Bourque (79) and Rick Hampton (76).

Dahlin also is on pace for the first 50-point season by a Sabres defenseman since Garry Galley (54) in 1995-96, and he quarterbacks Buffalo's power play, which scored in back-to-back games before it did not receive an opportunity Saturday against Columbus.

Larsson, meanwhile, is arguably the Sabres' top forward option on the penalty kill and has shown significant improvement under Krueger. Larsson has four goals with eight assists and a plus-12 rating in 46 games. He has zero points in his last 17 games.

Krueger told the media following practice Monday that Montour was being assessed to determine his status, but the Sabres' coach expressed optimism that the 25-year-old defenseman will be able to face Colorado. Montour participated in warmups Saturday, only to be replaced in the lineup by Lawrence Pilut.

Montour has three goals with 10 assists and a plus-5 rating through 37 games. He missed the first 14 games of the season with a hand injury. Bogosian, meanwhile, was unavailable against Columbus because of an illness.

Forwards Vladimir Sobotka (knee) and Tage Thompson (shoulder), and defenseman Matt Hunwick (neck) are likely out for the season. Victor Olofsson and Linus Ullmark, both of whom are recovering from a lower-body injury, will not be available for the Sabres this week.

Olofsson is still week-to-week, and Ullmark is out the next three to four weeks. The Sabres have four games in six days this week: at home against Colorado on Tuesday, at home against Detroit on Thursday, at New York to play the Rangers on Friday and at home against Anaheim on Sunday.

Fan frustrations

Krueger has stressed the importance of the Sabres keeping the "picture small." He doesn't want them looking too far into the future or dwelling on past failures.

Jake McCabe repeated the sentiment, albeit with a different message, when he said following a 3-1 loss to Montreal last Thursday that the Sabres needed to "tune out" the media. Jeff Skinner explained Monday how each player has their own method of blocking out criticism.

Krueger is practicing what he's instructing his players. The Sabres' coach said Monday that he hasn't heard about the recent surge in fan outrage, though he acknowledged he heard the boos following losses to Ottawa and Montreal last week.

"I don't hear it," Krueger said. "I don't read or follow anything outside of what I know, which is what's going on here. I think the fans have been fantastic. They've been angry when we haven't played well. They deserve to do that, and they've been great when we're playing well. I don't spend any of my free time doing anything but working on the things in my control, and I'm the only one in this space with all the information. So, I know exactly what's going on within our group. I continue to enjoy the energy and the work ethic, but whatever noise is out there -- they're passionate, probably, but it doesn't get to my desk."

Award recipient

The Sabres announced Monday that Chris Panek was named the 35th recipient of the J. Michael Duffett Memorial Award, which is presented annually to the coach whose contributions to amateur hockey in Western New York "best exemplify the knowledge, teaching, love of the game and gentle humanity of Mike.”

Panek will be presented with the award before puck drop Tuesday night in KeyBank Center. According to a news release, Panek's coaching career has spanned 25 years, with his experience ranging from the midget to high school levels. In addition to his players reaching the college level, Panek has worked with three who reached the professional level: Tim Kennedy, Chris Mueller and Mike Ratchuk.

Panek played at SUNY Plattsburgh before competing in the ECHL and AHL. He was selected by the Los Angeles Kings with the seventh pick in the 1987 NHL Supplemental Draft. Panek’s father, Frank, was the sixth recipient of the J. Michael Duffett Memorial Award.

Mike Duffett, a coach with the Buffalo Bisons and the Amherst Hockey Association, was working in the Sabres' hockey department under Scotty Bowman at the time of his death. The team established the award in 1984.

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