When this much is at stake, who can blame Sabres fans for cheering for losses?

Ken Campbell
Buff fans

In a discussion with a GM recently, this is how he described Connor McDavid: “When you draft a guy, you hope that maybe someday he’s going to be an all-star. You look at this guy and you’re thinking Hall of Fame.”

This is not some crazed fan or a yahoo who calls into sports talk radio. This is a person who makes player personnel decisions for a living and has seen thousands of prospects over the years. And he’s bang-on in his assessment. Read more

Ekman-Larsson’s 21 goals the most by a Swedish defenseman – and he’s only getting started

Jared Clinton
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

It didn’t look like much – a quick shot from the blueline that found its way past Buffalo Sabres goaltender Matt Hackett – but Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s 21st goal of the season was a huge one. With the marker, he became the first Swedish defenseman to ever score 21 goals in a season.

You read that correctly. On a list of blueliners that includes Hall of Famer Borje Salming, soon-to-be Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom and active defensemen Victor Hedman, Alex Edler, Niklas Kronwall and Erik Karlsson, Ekman-Larsson became the first to 21 goals. And it’s not even surprising because with each passing game Ekman-Larsson only better. Read more

Don’t openly cheer against your own team, Buffalo fans

Ryan Kennedy
At least the players were happy they scored (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

There is a very obvious subtext to the Buffalo Sabres’ 2014-15 campaign that all of us are aware of. Since the team is in a rebuild and this summer’s draft features not one but two incredible prospects in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, winning was not something that Sabres fans were overly concerned about.

But openly cheering against the Sabres at First Niagara Center? That’s weak (chicken wing) sauce, folks.

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Mike Smith big part of Coyotes future with or without McDavid or Eichel

Ken Campbell
Mike Smith  (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

BUFFALO – In a little more than 60 minutes, the 30th-place Buffalo Sabres and 29th-place Arizona Coyotes had a total of 124 shot attempts. That was three more than the Islanders and the Kings, 20 more than Carolina and Pittsburgh and 33 more than Nashville and the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning.

All in all, a rather entertaining, if not surreal night in the latest installment of the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes™. The Sabres did a pretty good job of keeping the crowd out of it by staying in the game, but the cheers could not be contained when the Coyotes scored on the power play just 56 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 victory, which increased the Coyotes cushion over Buffalo to six points. The Sabres were quietly incensed at the reaction, but the people who speak with their feet and their wallets are entitled to react however they like. If the Sabres get either McDavid or Jack Eichel and he helps lead them to a Stanley Cup in five years, nobody is going to remember a night in March when the fans booed a Sabres loss. Read more

Coyotes radio analyst & former NHLer Nick Boynton faces multiple charges after incident at Buffalo casino

Adam Proteau
Former NHLer Nick Boynton, shown with the Phoenix Coyotes in March of 2007. (Don Smith/Getty Images)

Arizona Coyotes radio analyst and former NHL defenseman Nick Boynton is facing a slew of charges after an incident involving patrons and security staff of a Buffalo casino early Thursday morning.

The 36-year-old Boynton, who retired in 2011, stands charged with assault, harassment, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and obstruction of government administration following an alleged incident at approximately 1:45 a.m. Thursday morning. Police allege that Boynton was abusive with numerous people at the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino – including one biting incident involving an officer attempting to restrain him – and that he damaged casino property. Boynton currently is in police custody at the Erie County Medical Center and is expected to be arraigned in Buffalo city court Friday. Read more

CHL playoffs: The most intriguing first-round matchups

Quebec's Anthony Duclair  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The CHL playoffs begin tonight and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Connor McDavid has one last chance to win it all with the Erie Otters in the Ontario League, but the powerfully-built Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds have designs of their own. Out in the Western League, Kelowna and Brandon seem to be on a collision course for the final, while the Quebec League has the added wrinkle of sending two teams to the Memorial Cup – one being the host Quebec Remparts, who won’t want to crawl in through the back door.

Here’s a look at all the first-round matchups in the CHL, with a bit more info on one series per league that has me riveted from the get-go.

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Why the Arizona Coyotes need to finish last more than the Buffalo Sabres do

Ken Campbell
Connor McDavid  (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

BUFFALO – Forty-five years ago, the Buffalo Sabres won the first overall pick with the spin of a wheel and chose Gilbert Perreault. The Vancouver Canucks settled for Dale Tallon. The Sabres got the better player and the Canucks got the better future GM. Of course, there was nothing preventing the Canucks from taking Darryl Sittler second overall in 1970.

But you get the point here. That one moment in time changed the course of history. And even though Perreault could never deliver a Stanley Cup to Buffalo, his Hall of Fame career gave the Sabres an identity and set them on a far better course.

Tonight’s game could be another one of those defining, franchise game-changing moments for the Sabres. Just as it could be for the Arizona Coyotes. All they have to do is lose tonight, then lose again in four days when the teams meet in the desert. It’s the only two times these teams meet this season and – wouldn’t you know it? – they play each other twice down the stretch with one of two generational talents on the line. Read more

Mark your calendars – the date has been set for the NHL’s most anticipated draft lottery in years

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announces the Buffalo Sabres as holders of the second pick in the 2014 entry draft. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

For months now, hockey fans have slowly built their anticipation for one of the most highly-consequential NHL draft lotteries since the process was introduced in 1995. And now it appears the league has settled on a date people can circle on their calendars.

According to a Sportsnet.ca report, the league has decided to hold this year’s draft lottery Apr. 18, as part of a Hockey Night In Canada playoff broadcast. That leaves a little more than three weeks for fans of sad-sack teams to firm up viewing party plans and binge on lottery simulation websites – and when you look at some of the teams with a decent chance of drafting nascent superstars Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel (and the stakes involved if they fail to win the lottery), you’ve got near-perfect conditions to deliver what could very well be hockey’s most drama-packed off-ice night in history.

For one thing, the increasingly-improving chance the Maple Leafs have at McDavid is going to push TV ratings to record levels. Like them or not, the Leafs have millions of fans, and after their brutal free-fall through the NHL standings this season those fans are going to try every superstitious trick in the book in the hope it allows fortune to smile on their beloved Buds. If that does happen, the city of Toronto is going to instantly explode in the biggest hockey-related celebration since a Stanley Cup was won here in 1967.

And for as dramatic as that result would be for the Leafs franchise – it would almost certainly tempt team management to fast-track their rebuild – think of the ripple effect it would have on the rest of the league, and on Toronto rivals in particular: Read more