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The Kids Are Alright In Buffalo

After a disastrous start and a flurry of moves, the Sabres have turned a sure-fire dumpster fire into a 35-game race to a potential playoff spot.

A 13-4-3 run over their last twenty games has put the Buffalo Sabres within two points of a wild card spot in the tightening standings of the Eastern Conference.

And all it took was a near total restart.

The Sabres were a paltry 8-15-4 those twenty games ago, selling off pieces and shedding salary. Robin Lehner had just been brought in and was shelled from the start, somehow eeking out a 3-3-0 record in his first six games. All he's done since is go 12-2-6 and has been the backbone of Buffalo's resurgence.

The new veterans are holding up their end, too. J-G Pageau has kept up from his hot start on Ottawa and has 50 points in 48 total games. Jason Zucker, who had six points in 15 games with Chicago, has been on fire with 20 goals and 33 points in as many games with the Sabres. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been just what the doctor ordered on defense, with 20 points and a plus-7 rating - not bad for a team still down 16 goals in the overall differential department.

That, and the kids. Boy, they are all right, indeed.

Kailer Yamamoto, the centerpiece in the deal that sent Joe Pavelski and Sam Reinhart to the Blackhawks, has been a revelation. After a 1-6-7 slash start in 15 games, he's produced 10 goals and 19 assists in 33 games for the Sabres. Jesperi Kotkaniemi has settled into the second-line center position, adding 32 points in 47 total games. Dylan Cozens has rebounded after a short stint in Rochester and has produced 21 points in 43 games.

Max Jones has contributed five goals in 14 games. Rasmus Andersson has been a rock on defense with nine points in 32 games with Buffalo, eating up over 22 minutes of ice time each night.

But it's the recent moves that might have given Buffalo the spark they really needed.

After a lengthy stretch of very little in terms of production, GM Thomas Gidlow waived several players, including William Carrier, Michael Raffl, and Andy Welinski who were all claimed by various clubs. It was a signal that just being on the team wasn't good enough.

Players like Isac Lundestrom, Jones, Colin White, William Wallinder, and others were asked to put their development aside and give the pro club new life. And the team has responded, going 4-1-0 since those moves, outscoring the opposition 18-11 during those five games.

Who knows if it's a smart long-term strategy. And maybe it won't last. But at least for now, the excitement is back at KeyBank Center. And that's something that was very hard to find not so long ago.

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