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McCabe gets to Wells Fargo Center a week earlier than he hoped

WfargoBy Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- Ever since the summer, Jake McCabe had been planning on being at the Wells Fargo Center in April. The problem is he got here a week too soon.

The Buffalo Sabres defenseman was hoping to play in the NCAA Frozen Four here next weekend but top-seeded Wisconsin got upset by North Dakota. McCabe gave up his senior season, signed with the Sabres and will instead play at the WFC tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers.

There's a big sign on the outside of the building advertising the tournament (it's on the left in the picture; click for a bigger view). McCabe saw it yesterday as the Sabres' team bus drove by the arena from the airport.

"Our whole year, our sights were set on coming to Philly for the Frozen Four and we had the team to do it," McCabe told me here today. "We had a great group. We had a 1 seed going in. We just didn't get the job done but we still accomplished a lot of good things. I made it here but just in a little differet fashion I guess. 

"I saw the sign yesterday. I kind of chuckled to myself and at the same time I was a little ticked off. But I'm here now so that's good."

McCabe certainly has been as good as advertised in his first two games. He's plus one against St. Louis and Detroit.

"He's done a great job," said Sabres defenseman and fellow Wisconsin alum Jamie McBain. "He's a big strong kid. You can tell his comfort the first two games. I went to Albany in the AHL. To jump into this league and the first game is against the Blues is not an easy situation. The poise that he handled it with, it's been a lot of fun to watch his first two games."

"I'm getting thrown right into it, that's for sure," McCabe said. "These last few games will really tell me what I need to do to be here next year. I'm going to have to go home, work my butt off in the summer to stay at the level I need to be so I can be in Buffalo."

McCabe on NHL debut: 'This is the place I wanted to go'

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- Jake McCabe put pen to paper, flew Tuesday night from Madison, Wis., to Buffalo through Chicago, took some physical testing Wednesday morning and flew with the Sabres here Wednesday afternoon.

And the 20-year-old defenseman is right in the Buffalo Sabres' lineup tonight against the St. Louis Blues.

"It's starting to set in now, being out there with the guys and putting on Buffalo gear so it's exciting," McCabe said after today's pregame skate in Scottrade Center. "This is a whole new level of anything I've ever been to. It's exciting. The guys have been great so far."

The 6-foot, 195-pounder could be part of a makeshift Buffalo defense corps tonight. Henrik Tallinder is out with a lower-body injury and Mike Weber did not skate today, with coach Ted Nolan calling him a game-time decision. John Scott and/or Nicolas Deslauriers could spend some time on defense tonight.

"We expect a first-year kid coming in for his first game. He's going to be full of energy and enthusiasm," said Nolan, who cautioned McCabe has a huge challenge against the Blues, the Western Conference leaders. "They're the cream of the crop in the NHL right now. He can't be admiring his passes and go back with normal college speed. He has to jump right in with the best in the league."

McCabe, Buffalo's No. 2 pick in 2012, said he had long talks with Wisconsin coach and ex-NHLer Mike Eaves about staying in school or forgoing his senior year and Eaves supported the decision to go pro. The Sabres' willingness to give him a three-year entry-level contract at $925,000 per year sure helped too.

"Giving away that senior year was a big, big decision," he said. "It was an all-around awesome experience and I would suggest to anyone to go the college route. We had a long talk, a good talk. And he said, if you want to leave I'll support you all the way.

"This is a great organiztion. We've been in talks the last couple years. We've been in contact. The development camps have been great. This is the place I wanted to go. It's exciting to finally be here."

In other news from the pregame skate, Nathan Lieuwen will start in goal tonight and Nolan said he will most likely go with Matt Hackett tomorrow in Detroit. Chris Stewart, who suffered a severe ankle injury March 6 in Tampa, skated with the team for the first time and could play before the season is over. The Sabres had previously ruled him out. 

Click below to hear audio from McCabe and Nolan

Jake McCabe

Ted Nolan


Sabres' McCabe gets rookie maximum for three-year deal

By John Vogl

The Sabres brought prospect Jake McCabe into the organization today, and they'll welcome him to the NHL on Thursday.

Not surprisingly, he'll play for the rookie maximum of $925,000 per season.

McCabe, who burst up the organizational depth chart in 2013 when he captained the United States to  world junior gold, can earn a total base salary of $2.775 million over his three-year, entry-level deal. The first season kicks in when he takes the ice Thursday in St. Louis.

Unlike teenage junior players, the 20-year-old McCabe doesn't get the nine-game tryout before his contract kicks in. So while he'll play a maximum of seven games for Buffalo this season, they'll count as an entire season.

It's a solid tradeoff for the Sabres, who lured McCabe away from Wisconsin following his junior year. The alternate captain led the Badgers' defense with eight goals and 25 points in 36 games this season.

John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

About Sabres Edge

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |