BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

Sabres' fresh start features motivated Jack Eichel

In this Monday Sept. 18, 2017, file photo, Buffalo Sabres new head coach Phil Housley looks on during the second period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Monday Sept. 18, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. Housley replaced coach Dan Bylsma. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)

By The Associated Press
BUFFALO SABRES
LAST SEASON: 33-37-12, 78 points. Finished last in Atlantic Division and 15th in Eastern Conference, extending playoff drought to sixth consecutive season.
COACH: Phil Housley (first season, first NHL season).
ADDED: GM Jason Botterill, Ds Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu and Victor Antipin, RW Jason Pominville, LW Benoit Pouliot, G Chad Johnson.
LOST: RW Brian Gionta, LWs Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis and William Carrier, Ds Cody Franson and Dmitry Kulikov, G Anders Nilsson.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jack Eichel. The Sabres budding franchise player has plenty of motivation to produce entering his third season since being selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL draft — one spot behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. The 20-year-old summed up his first two years as “mediocre,” and vows to be more of a leader on and off the ice. He led the Sabres with 57 points last season, but missed 21 games with a sprained left ankle. Eichel is also entering the final year of his rookie contract and willing to wait until next summer to sign a new deal. Both sides are open to an NHL-maximum eight-year deal, though they’re at odds on the contract’s value.
OUTLOOK: It’s all on how quickly Housley can instill structure, focus and accountability to a high-priced lineup that under-achieved last season and led to GM Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma being fired in April. Housley is a Hall of Famer, who opened his career in Buffalo, and credited for developing a talented and up-tempo group of Predators defensemen the past four seasons as an assistant in Nashville. A 10-point improvement over last year likely won’t lead Buffalo to the playoffs, but would be an encouraging step for a team that floundered for much of the last decade.
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