Ryan O’Reilly was unable to hide his dejection as he acknowledged that the Sabres‘ latest last-place

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BUFFALO [url=http://www.officialcanadiensprostore.com/authentic-adidas-jonathan-drouin-jersey]Jonathan Drouin Jersey[/url] , N.Y. (AP) Ryan O’Reilly was unable to hide his dejection as he acknowledged that the Sabres‘ latest last-place finish led him to question his love for hockey.If that wasn’t enough, the high-priced center accused the Sabres of adopting a mindset of ”being OK with losing.””It’s crept into all of our games. Yeah, it’s disappointing. It’s sad,” O’Reilly said Monday, two days after Buffalo closed one of its worst seasons in franchise history. ”I feel throughout the year I’ve lost the love of the game multiple times, and just need to get back to it because it’s eating myself up, and eats the other guys up, too.”Losing is all O’Reilly knows in the three seasons since being acquired in a trade with Colorado, after which the Sabres signed him to a seven-year, $52.5 million contract extension.Rather than being part of a rebuilding plan, which included Buffalo selecting Jack Eichel with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft [url=http://www.officialcanadiensprostore.com/authentic-adidas-karl-alzner-jersey]http://www.officialcanadiensprostore.com/authentic-adidas-karl-alzner-jersey[/url] , O’Reilly and company find themselves back at square one. They became the NHL’s first team to finish 31st – following this year’s addition of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights – after back-to-back 30th-place finishes in 2013-14 and 2014-’15.This year’s collapse is considerably worse given that Buffalo’s trajectory was supposed to be trending upward under the new regime of general manager Jason Botterill and coach Phil Housley. They took over last spring after the Sabres underachieved in finishing 26th under GM Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma”We have to evaluate everything, coaching staff, the players. What are they willing to change?” Housley said. ”There comes a point in your career where you have to realize what’s important. Obviously, winning, what it takes to win, the commitment to win in this league. And that’s what we talk about change.”Very little went right in a season Buffalo opened 1-5-2 and closed 2-9, extending the franchise’s longest playoff drought to a seventh straight year.Buffalo matched a franchise low for home wins by going 11-25-5, including a 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers in the Winter Classic at New York City. The Sabres finished last in the NHL with 199 goals scored, 91 goals at home and in being outscored by 81 goals.Their best run was a three-game win streak, all on the road, while the Sabres went winless over four or more games seven times [url=http://www.officialredwings.com/authentic-adidas-jonathan-bernier-jersey]Jonathan Bernier Jersey Womens[/url] , including an 0-5-2 skid from Nov. 10-22.The reality of how bad the Sabres were, set in at the midpoint of the season for defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.”It was around Christmas and we were done, and we still had 40 games to play,” Ristolainen said. ”Everyone wants to make the playoffs so bad, and we weren’t even close.”LIKING EICHEichel led Buffalo with a career-best 25 goals and 64 points in 67 games, despite missing 15 games with a sprained right ankle. Much more is expected next season when Eichel’s eight-year, $80 million contract kicks in.”Things will get better and it starts with me,” Eichel said. ”Everybody needs to look at themselves and figure out what they’re doing. Obviously, whatever I’ve been doing hasn’t been working. What we’ve been doing as a team hasn’t been working.”DOWN ON THE FARMWhile the Sabres are done, their AHL Rochester Americans affiliate qualified for the playoffs for the first time in four years. The Americans feature several Sabres prospects being counted upon to play in Buffalo full-time next season including forward Alexander Nylander, defenseman Brendan Guhle and goalie Linus Ullmark.FREE AGENTSThe Sabres have a decision to make in goal with starter Robin Lehner set to become a restricted free agent and backup Chad Johnson eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. The team’s other pending unrestricted free agents include forwards Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Nolan [url=http://www.officialcanadiensprostore.com/authentic-adidas-mike-reilly-jersey]Mike Reilly Jersey[/url] , and defenseman Josh Gorges.Forward Sam Reinhart, who scored a career-best 25 goals, completed his three-year entry level contract and eligible to be a restricted free agent.OFF TO THE WORLDSRookie first-round draft pick Casey Mittelstadt accepted Hockey USA’s invitation to compete at the world championships in Denmark next month. Mittelstadt signed with Buffalo last month after completing his freshman season at Minnesota. The center won a bronze medal representing the U.S. at the World Junior hockey championships in January.INJURIESLehner visited a specialist Monday to assess a lower body injury that forced him to miss the final five games. D Zach Bogosian expects to be cleared to skate by June after having season-ending hip surgery in January.— Nathan MacKinnon, like every boy his age growing up in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, idolized the hometown hero Sidney Crosby. Now as an NHL player and a fellow No. 1 overall pick, the two have become great friends.They work out together in the summer, they’ve made commercials together and they play on the same Canadian National teams. But two times a season they are foes, and one of those times is Wednesday night when Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Colorado Avalanche.The friendship will be put on hold for a few hours while both are trying to beat each other. And they won’t have much time to socialize. Both teams played road games Tuesday night, with the Avalanche beating Nashville 3-2 and Pittsburgh winning 4-3 at Winnipeg.Article continues below ...Colorado has won five straight and is 7-0-1 in its last eight games.Crosby, 31 [url=http://www.officialcanadiensprostore.com/authentic-adidas-paul-byron-jersey]Womens Paul Byron Jersey[/url] , is eight years older than MacKinnon and has something the younger Cole Harbour player desires — titles. The Penguins have won three Stanley Cups in 13-plus seasons and has been to four Cup finals.MacKinnon hasn’t been out of the first round in the two times Colorado has reached the playoffs in his first five seasons, and he admires the way his friend still competes.“He never gets comfortable,” MacKinnon once said of Crosby. “He’s always trying new things to get better and working so hard. It’s contagious. If a guy like that is trying to get better every day than anybody can.”MacKinnon, at least through the first quarter of this season, has been the more productive player than Crosby. He entered Tuesday second in the NHL in scoring with 37 points — three behind linemate Mikko Rantanen — and has more goals (17-10) and assists (20-15) than Crosby.MacKinnon has come on strong since last November after Colorado (14-6-4) traded Matt Duchene to Ottawa, and he has not stopped producing.The Avalanche will need his line to play well to beat the Penguins (10-8-5). Although Pittsburgh has struggled out of the gate it has a dangerous offense now that Crosby has returned from an upper-body injury that cost him three games earlier this month.Crosby’s injury is one of many Pittsburgh has dealt with. Goaltender Matt Murray, center Matt Cullen and defenseman Justin Schultz are going to be out for an extended time but center Derek Grant, who missed two straight games with an undisclosed injury before returning to score a tying goal in the third period against the Jets.“I just fell funny,” Grant said, describing how his injury happened to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Monday. “Something I just got to play through, I think [url=http://www.officialcanadiensprostore.com/authentic-adidas-shea-weber-jersey]Authentic Shea Weber Jersey[/url] , but I felt good out there today.”The Avalanche have had a few injuries, the latest being their top-scoring defenseman Tyson Barrie sitting out Tuesday with a lower-body injury. Mark Barberio played in his place.The one area Colorado has addressed is defense, and one reason is the signing of Ian Cole in the summer. Cole is averaging just over 20 minutes of ice time this season and brings championship experience to the young Avalanche. He won his titles with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017 and played parts of two other seasons with the Penguins.Even with Colorado reaching the playoffs last season, having someone who has played deep into the postseason helps.“The playoffs are more of a feel thing, more of an intensity thing, something where every battle matters and every decision matters,” Cole told The Denver Post. “Every puck play matters. And that doesn’t just apply to the playoffs — if we try to instill that mindset over the course of the season, we’ll have a better record, a better team and when we get to the playoffs, we’ll be more ready to jump right in.”

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