Sabres’ Dahlin: ‘I was scared’ of playing against new partner Clifton

Sabres' Dahlin: 'I was scared' of playing against new partner Clifton

Buffalo Sabres superstar Rasmus Dahlin no longer has to keep his head on a swivel for Connor Clifton.

Clifton garnered a reputation as a fear-inducing open-ice hitter during his five seasons with the Boston Bruins, but he’s now a member of the Sabres after inking a three-year, $10-million contract as a free agent in the offseason.

“On the ice, you see his toughness,” Dahlin said, per Buffalo Hockey Beat’s Bill Hoppe. “I remember playing him in Boston. I was scared of him. I hated to play against him.”

Despite being just 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Clifton led the Bruins and finished 10th among NHL defensemen with 208 hits last season.

Dahlin and Clifton have been defensive partners through the beginning of training camp. The former is looking to reach new heights off the heels of a breakout, 73-point season in 2022-23 and has impressed Clifton thus far.

“He’s a fun player to watch,” Clifton said. “It’s even more fun playing next to him.”

Head coach Don Granato, who coached Clifton with the U.S. National Team Development Program, likes what he sees from the pairing.

“They both read and play the same together,” Granato said. “One’s moving off the other and they’re showing experience.”

Clifton projects to play a larger role in Buffalo after averaging just 17:51 minutes per game in Boston last season.

The Sabres are hoping Clifton can be a steadying presence on the back end for a team that finished 26th in goals against in 2022-23 and missed the playoffs by a single point despite owning the league’s third-best offense.

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