NASHVILLE - It's been a busy few days for the dads, fathers-in-law and other family members of the Buffalo Sabres' players, coaches and staff who were invited to join the team for their two-game road trip through Dallas and Nashville.
When the Sabres arrived Wednesday evening in Dallas, the group enjoyed each other's company at a team dinner. Then on Thursday, it was business as usual for the players. Meetings were held in the morning, and the parents could sit in on a few of them before they went on a tour of the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility.
Then they got to enjoy a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars from the suites. After landing in Nashville early Friday morning, they settled into the seats at Bridgestone Arena to watch an afternoon practice session.
"Being around all these dads, the support, it's nice to see," Jack Eichel's dad Bob said. "It's so accommodating. We went to the Dallas Cowboys training facility yesterday. It's wonderful. And of course, all the food we get to eat. It's been great."
Sam Reinhart's father Paul played 11 years in the NHL so he's familiar with the ins and outs of a professional hockey career, but he still enjoys the ability to spend time with his son during the season.
"For me, it's a comparison to how things were versus today. The core of what they do is no different than what we did. It's the same routine," he said. "They just do it a lot more professionally and organized than maybe what we did."
Paul also had a great time watching Thursday's win in Dallas with such a culturally diverse group.
"Just like a room of 20 guys has got a lot of unique individuals, clearly that translates into parents that are unique and different," he said.
"You, of course, have the mixing of the Europeans and then you've got even at the parent group, which is fun for a lot of parents to talk to each other about the experiences of their kids growing up. But you also have the characters that stand out even in a room of parents.
"It's always fun. It gives you a little bit of the camaraderie that maybe as a player you get to experience."
Martin Dahlin has watched his son play NHL games in Buffalo and Stockholm, but never in a North American road game. He's had "a blast" on the trip so far, according to his son, and the dads hope to see another win Saturday night when the Sabres play the Predators.
"It's been a fantastic experience to be together with Rasmus and the rest of the team and the staff," Martin said.
Rasmus was selected first overall at the 2018 NHL Draft, which was held in Dallas, so returning to American Airlines Center on Thursday proved to be a powerful moment between father and son.
"We talked about it when we arrived there and the memories around it," Martin said. "It's something special."
Click here for a photo gallery of the trip so far.
Bob Eichel, meanwhile, has watched his son develop from the No. 2 overall pick in the NHL Draft into a three-time NHL All-Star in the midst of a career year as the captain of his team. Eichel is currently on a nine-game point streak and had an 18-game personal point streak earlier this season.
"Just maturing. He's changed a lot this year, I feel," Bob said. "He's getting stronger in the defensive zone. Take care of that end first. …I think Ralph Krueger has really taught him and the other guys what it means to play hard in your zone."
Paul Reinhart hopes that the team can carry its current success through the rest of the season. The Sabres have won three games in a row and five of their last seven. They're currently five points out of a Wild Card spot and six points from being in third place in the Atlantic Division.
"My observation, and based on what I hear from Sam and some of the other guys, is that there is a good attitude and atmosphere around the organization," Paul said. "I've certainly sensed it from just being around the guys and talking with Ralph. That positive and professional attitude is very refreshing, and I think it's starting to translate into benefits for the organization.
"Hopefully during the last couple months of the season, these guys can get themselves and push themselves into a playoff race, which ultimately will benefit this young group beyond anything the coaches or management can do. You have to experience that kind of playoff push and hopefully get into the playoffs because that's where organizations turn around."
Martin Dahlin may have put it best.
"My experience is that it's a good, positive feeling around the team," he said. "We feel that it's a team."
Video: Krueger addresses Sabres dads in locker room
Here's how Buffalo lined up during Friday's skate at Bridgestone Arena:
13 Jimmy Vesey - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
27 Curtis Lazar - 90 Marcus Johansson - 67 Michael Frolik
20 Scott Wilson - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 74 Rasmus Asplund
Defense: 4 Zach Bogosian, 10 Henri Jokiharju, 19 Jake McCabe, 24 Lawrence Pilut, 26 Rasmus Dahlin, 33 Colin Miller, 55 Rasmus Ristolainen, 62 Brandon Montour
35 Linus Ullmark
40 Carter Hutton
The Sabres face the Predators tomorrow night. Faceoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET with pregame coverage on MSG starting at 7:30. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will call the action on MSG and WGR 550. It will be Buffalo's final game before their bye week and the All-Star break.