Brandon Montour has played two home games as a member of the Sabres, and he's seen both sides of the coin when it comes to the passion of his new fanbase.
Montour scored the game-tying goal late in the third period of his home debut against Pittsburgh last Friday, a game the Sabres went on to win in overtime. He received third star honors, giving him an opportunity for a curtain call afterward.
For all the adoration that poured from the stands that night, there was as much frustration when the Sabres lost to Edmonton at home on Monday.
In both cases, Montour appreciated the enthusiasm.
"This team hasn't made the playoffs in a number of years so it's obviously frustrating in a sense of that happening from just learning and seeing that fans are really passionate about their sports here," Montour said.
"The positive thing is I've been here for a week now and I already see a huge upside with what I had out west. It's one of those things where it's time to grow. There's a lot of young guys here, but this is going to be a really good team for a long time.
"It's a matter of getting that experience of highs and lows and challenging one another to come in each game and be better. Like I said, there's a lot of upside here, a good group. But I've been here for a week, so it's one of those things where I could see myself playing here and fitting in and being a big part of this organization for a long time. I'm excited for what this team has to offer in the next few years."
Sabres.com caught up with Montour after practice on Wednesday about playing close to his hometown, his lacrosse background and his own fanhood.
You have a deep lacrosse background. Does that play into your hockey style at all?
Maybe a little bit. I think the way I play and a fast-paced sport like lacrosse, there are obviously some similarities. The way you move out on the floor, it translates, to me, moving on the ice. And then growing up, conditioning and stuff like that, that stuff is huge as well.
Has being an aggressive defenseman always been your style?
I think so. Over the years, since I've been playing professionally, you try and be a lot smarter about it. But throughout pretty well my whole childhood or before that, I was kind of given the leeway to do whatever I kind of needed to do out there. But now, I think you see if we need a goal or some offense, I think that's where more of my strengths can come out, I can use my skating and be aggressive.
I'm always going to be aggressive no matter what, but I think another thing is, being a smaller defenseman too, you've got a lot of big guys in this league. Being aggressive, being physical, whether it's crushing somebody or laying a big hit, it's not always about that. It's stepping up on guys or laying a good, solid hit. Nobody likes to get hit or likes that physical game, so when you get someone like myself as a smaller guy to do that, it's definitely huge.
You were off the NHL radar your first couple years of draft eligibility. Was pro lacrosse a consideration?
You know what, I have a lot of buddies that play professionally now. A couple guys play for Buffalo. But I don't really know too much, I don't look into it too much anymore. Guys I played with growing up play now, so I think it's one of those things that could've been a possibility or could've translated, but hockey was always number one. I always had a passion for lacrosse, but if hockey was available, I was going to be doing that instead.
You spent your first few years of junior hockey close to home. What was your family's reaction when they found out you were coming back?
They were excited. You get mixed emotions. The first four years of my career I've been spoiled with weather and stuff like that, not really remembering what it's like to be in colder weather with snow or whatnot. I've been away from home for seven or eight years now. A chance to play closer to home and have the ability to play in front of my family and friends is a huge positive.
Did you have a close relationship with Ryan Miller in Anaheim?
Yeah. He's been on the team for two years now. He's really good. When you needed someone, he's an older guy who obviously has been through it all. He was in Buffalo for a number of years so when I got traded, he was one of the people to give me a heads up of what it's all about. He knew I had a lot of emotions going through the trade, but he said it's a great organization and if I need anything to let him know. And I will, we're going to stay in touch.
You've said LeBron is your favorite athlete. What do you admire about him?
How dominant he is as an athlete, what he does on the basketball court, and then what he does for the community, branding himself not necessarily by how good he is on the basketball court but how he is as a person. He got close in California this year, so I caught a couple games. It's always a treat to see someone like that, not even just basketball, but an athlete as dominant as he is, to see what they're all about. I've been a big fan of his for a number of years now.
Vladimir Sobotka (upper body) and Zach Bogosian (lower body) were full participants and have not been ruled out to play in Chicago on Thursday. Sabres coach Phil Housley said that both players' status will be determined based on how they react to practice.
Here's how the team lined up:
53 Jeff Skinner - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
43 Conor Sheary - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 21 Kyle Okposo
20 Scott Wilson - 37 Cassey Mittelstadt - 29 Jason Pominville
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 17 Vladimir Sobotka / 22 Johan Larsson - 72 Tage Thompson
6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 8 Casey Nelson / 4 Zach Bogosian
48 Matt Hunwick - 64 Brandon Montour
40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark