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Sabres' Power excited to fight for playoff spot: 'It's going to be fun'

Dave Reginek / National Hockey League / Getty

The Buffalo Sabres haven't made the playoffs in 12 years, but young defenseman Owen Power likes his team's odds of ending that drought in 2023-24.

"I think the team as a whole is confident coming into this year," he said, according to NHLcom's Dave McCarthy. "I think with us, for how young we are, we're going in with the goal to get better every day. And if we do that, we'll be in a good spot at the end of the year."

He added, "I honestly think we can go for a (Stanley) Cup, so I think that's the attitude everyone has got and the attitude we have to have."

The Sabres came close to snapping their lengthy playoff streak in 2022-23. They finished the season just one point behind the Florida Panthers for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference after posting their highest win and point totals (42 and 91, respectively) since the 2010-11 campaign.

Power, 20, played a part in his team's marked improvement during his first full NHL season. He posted four goals and 31 points in 79 games while averaging 23:48 minutes per contest, the most playing time out of all rookies last year by a near-two-minute margin. As a result of his efforts, Power was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy, but he ended up losing out to Seattle Kraken center Matty Beniers.

In order for the Sabres to force their way into the playoff picture, they'll have to battle some Atlantic Division heavyweights like the Panthers, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Toronto Maple Leafs. On top of that, Buffalo isn't the only up-and-coming team aiming to stick around in the spring, with the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings also looking to take the next step.

Despite the stiff competition, Power is looking forward to the battle at hand.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "Any time you get to play against the best teams in the league and compete for a playoff spot, it's a lot of fun. I'm excited, and I know our whole team is excited for the challenge."

The Sabres brought in defensemen Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton to aid in their pursuit and also re-signed the likes of Zemgus Girgensons, Tyson Jost, and captain Kyle Okposo.

After signing a one-year, $2.5-million extension in May, Okposo said Buffalo can't be afraid of the increased pressure in the new season.

"Last year, there (were) no expectations," he said. "Everybody's writing rosy articles: 'This group is a good team; it's becoming a good team.' And that's great, but how do you do that with expectations? ... There's going to be lofty expectations next year, and I think that we can't run from that."

Puck drops on the Sabres' 2023-24 campaign on Oct. 12 against the New York Rangers.

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