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5 Sabres training camp observations: Day 1

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Posted at 1:38 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-23 13:38:04-04

Friday the Buffalo Sabres opened training camp at HARBORCENTER and just about 45 minutes into day the Sabres already had a scrimmage.

Here's 5 observations from Day 1:

1) Robin Lehner looks quick... really quick.

- By now, most fans know that Lehner lost a significant amount of weight in the offseason, and today, you could tell. After practice, even Lehner's teammates were talking about it. Defenseman Jake McCabe said his hard work stood out and he's confident Lehner will show just how good he is. In the scrimmage Lehner struggled at times, making a bad turnover behind the net that lead to a goal, but he didn’t let in any “softies”. Lehner said Thursday that he expects to be better this year and redeem himself after a disappointing 2015 season.

2) Lehner who?

- When practice started new Sabres goaltender Anders Nilsson’s jersey read: “Nillson 31". A misspelled jersey wasn’t a great way to start the day off — but things only got better for Nilsson. In Friday’s scrimmage Nilsson didn’t let in a goal and made some really tough saves look routine. After practice, the 26-year-old goalie said it felt good to be back on the ice and that all he can focus on is being his best and continuing to get better -- regardless of how many games he plays.

3) McCabe ready to take the next step

- Last season Jake McCabe came to training camp worried about making the Sabres roster. This year, the 21-year-old defenseman knows he’ll be an every night starter — so his focus has shifted from making the team to taking the next step as a team: Making the playoffs. McCabe says this roster is talented enough to do just that and training camp is when that all starts. Expect big minutes from McCabe this year, he’s a rising star.

4) Cole Schneider: Day 1 MVP

- During the scrimmage Team Blue scored four goals. Western New York-native Cole Schneider had three of them. After practice he joked with reporters that his performance Friday was the only reason we wanted to talk with him. To be fair, he's not wrong. Regardless, he stood out Friday, with two of his goals coming off deflections from right in front of the net. The Sabres, as a team, need to score more of those goals from the top down. They aren't the prettiest, but they look the same on the scoreboard... I know, I went there.  After practice Sabres Coach Dan Bylsma said that Schneider was easily one the Sabres best forwards during the scrimmage.

5) Fun forward combinations

- Most believe that Evander Kane, Sam Reinhart, Kyle Okposo and Tyler Ennis will be four of the Sabres top-six forwards when the season starts next month. If Friday is any indication, those people would be correct. During the scrimmage, Kane and Reinhart looked comfortable together -- especially in the first period.  They were centered for most of the day by Sabres first round pick Alex Nylander. The line was able to cycle the puck at will and physically dominate the gold team, especially early on. Bylsma said that can be expected when one group (Gold team) already had a 45 minute skate before the scrimmage. Kane scored the first goal of the day on a pass from Reinhart, but the goal was more of a mistake from Lehner behind the net than anything else. Bylsma said after practice the Kane, Nylander, Reinhart combination was the best line of the day. In the second and final period, the gold team showed flashes of high quality play but wasn't able to get anything going. Aside from what seemed like an incredibly long shift from Ennis, the Ennis, Larsson, Okposo line generated some good chances.

The Sabres are back on the ice for Day 2 of Sabres Training camp on Saturday.

Follow Matt Bove for updates!