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Takeaways from Sabres Media Day

Players stepped up to the podium for the official start of training camp on Thursday

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Rasmus Dahlin grinned as he described the energy on the ice inside LECOM Harborcenter, where he and his Sabres teammates have held informal skates in the weeks and days leading up to the season. 

"The boys are excited to be back," Dahlin said. "We had a couple of good days here with good speed. Yeah, we're excited to get things going."

Dahlin and the rest of the Sabres players poured into KeyBank Center to undergo physical testing and complete their media obligations on Thursday morning, signaling the official start of training camp. They'll take the ice for the first time under new coach Ralph Krueger on Friday.

Video: Sabres in 50: Media Day

Dahlin, Jack Eichel, Marcus Johansson, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Jeff Skinner all took the podium to speak with the media in the meantime. Here are some key takeaways from media day. 


Krueger has made a strong first impression

Eichel and Skinner both described their new coach as having an excitement level that should prove to be infectious once they take the ice together on Friday.

"I think he brings a great energy to the rink, a lot of positivity from him," Eichel said. "I think he's super excited and I think that makes the guys excited. Just talking to him, his plans and his mindset, I think it's really good. I think all the guys have responded well to it."

"I think it's a pretty unique thing as a player seeing a guy that passionate, that excited to sort of get going," Skinner added. "That can become contagious. I think it's fun to be around so I'm excited to get going and playing for him."

Dahlin echoed Kyle Okposo's comments from earlier in the month, saying his conversations with Krueger have extended beyond hockey.

"We haven't really talked about hockey yet," Dahlin said. "He's a really good man. He's a lot about get to know you as a person. That's basically what we have done now the couple last days."

Johansson cited that personality as a main reason he chose to sign with the Sabres in free agency.

"I think I really like the idea I got from him just being a good person, a good leader, not just what he wants to do hockey-wise," Johansson said. "I think, to me, that's important that it's a good person, that it's someone who wants well for everyone. I think that's what Ralph stands for."

 

Ristolainen: 'I want to help this team'

Ristolainen explained the sentiment behind an August interview with Finnish outlet MTV Sports in which he expressed frustration with his lack of success in Buffalo. 

"I was just explaining, personally, how I felt," the defenseman said. "When you have rough years like I've had here the past six years and you don't win much, that's what you want. Things get rough and you get pissed. 

"I was just telling [the media in Finland] the year wasn't easy for me and I wasn't blaming anyone else. … I'm hard on myself."

Ristolainen expressed excitement about playing for Krueger and said he hopes to benefit from a new offseason training regimen that placed a heavier emphasis on skating. 

"I'm really excited," he said. "I'm in great shape. I just want to get better and help this team right now go to the playoffs. It's nice to see all the guys after a long summer. When the summer is so long you get so excited when you get to put your hockey gear back on."

 

Embracing competition

Krueger said following the Prospects Challenge that training camp will be an open competition, with a mix of veterans and prospects vying for ice time and roster spots. Eichel said he believes that internal competition will have a positive effect on the team. 

"I think that's a good thing," Eichel said. "I think it will make for a competitive camp, a competitive preseason. I think everyone's fighting for spots and it's a really good thing. We have a lot of D, a lot of forwards, a lot of guys here - a lot of really, really good players, too. 

"You saw it in [Rochester] last year. They had a good year, a really good team with a lot of young and upcoming players that I think will push guys for position. I think that's good. Whenever you have competition, I think it helps everyone prepare better for the season."

We broke down which young players might be ready to make the jump to the NHL here

 

Staying positive

One common sentiment from players on Thursday was the need to stay positive through the peaks and valleys of the season. 

The start of last season marked the first taste of NHL success for most of Buffalo's young core. Players admitted that morale went down once the wins disappeared, creating a vicious cycle of sorts.

"I learned to just be as positive as you can and for me that's hard," Ristolainen said. "I'm pretty passionate about winning. I kind of get pissed off and I'm really hard on myself."

Dahlin echoed those remarks.

"I just think that we have to stay positive," he said. "It's easy to say, but it's hard to do. Yeah, we kind of fell in a trap or whatever you call it last year. But I think if we ever come to that place this year, we just have to stay positive, not think about what happened [last year].

This is an area where the Sabres should benefit from the presence of Johansson, a veteran of nine playoff runs in 10 seasons.

"I've got to do my job to help do my part," Johansson said. "But we've got to come together as a group. I think that's where Ralph is really good, too. We got to stick together through good and bad. Just because it starts going bad you can't just lay down and quit. You got to work through it.

"This team showed the potential they had last year in the beginning of the year. I think hopefully I can help with some consistency and help when it's not going as well as you want it to all the time."

 

Up next

The Sabres will hold two closed practice sessions at KeyBank Center on Friday, with the first group scheduled to take the ice at 10:15 a.m. Stay tuned to Sabres.com for complete coverage.

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