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Girgensons, Okposo to serve as alternate captains this season

Notes from Tuesday's practice at KeyBank Center

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo will serve as co-alternate captains for the Buffalo Sabres this season, coach Don Granato announced Tuesday. 

Girgensons, 27, is entering his 10th season with the franchise and is the longest-tenured member of the Sabres. Okposo, 33, has been a member of the team's leadership group since joining the franchise in 2016.

"Two of our veteran guys that have a passion and love for not only the Sabres, but Buffalo," Granato said. "They have homes here. They enjoy their time here. They spend a lot of their offseason here and they do a great job in that locker room as well as on the ice. 

"We're excited to have those guys. I'm excited to have those guys in our locker room and on the bench and on the ice with us. So, they're great leaders. They'll fill that role very well for us."

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Granato

Granato credited Okposo with helping ease the transition last season after Granato was named interim head coach on March 17. The Sabres became increasingly youthful from that point on, with young players stepping into larger roles as veterans departed via trade. 

Casey Mittelstadt, one of the players who assumed added responsibility during the final month last season, referred to Okposo as the team's "rock" in the dressing room. Victor Olofsson described Okposo as the most professional teammate he's ever had. 

"I'm just myself and I try to treat everybody with respect, whether it's James the security guard walking in or you guys (in the media) or the GM, coach, any player, whoever," Okposo said. "I just want to make everybody feel welcome here. 

"And when I'm in the locker room talking to the team, we know when to laugh, when to joke around, when it's time to work. That's just kind of the way that I want to try and help build this thing here."

Video: CAPTAINCY: Okposo

Girgensons sustained an injury in training camp that forced him to miss last season. Okposo spoke on the opening day of this year's camp about how much the team missed Girgensons' presence, which Okposo said is underappreciated outside the Sabres' dressing room. 

"Go watch him play on the ice," Okposo said. "Any time that he puts his skates on, you go watch what he does and how he works and how he battles and what he does for the team. That guy is, he is a tremendously gifted player in how he plays the game and how mature he is playing the game, and how he works and he doesn't cheat the game. 

"We all as hockey players, one way or another growing up, were the most skilled player on your team and a lot of times you cheat the game in being that player trying to get points. He never does, and I think that's something that every young player can take away from him." 

Girgensons said he learned from how Okposo has carried himself over the years.

"It's an honor to be selected as one of the leaders, especially to be next to Okie who's been a leader throughout the years," he said. "I've taken many notes from him, so it's an honor. It means a lot to me to be next to him. But we have a lot of leaders in that room, all around. Younger, older, we have a lot of leaders."


Tuesday's practice 

Drake Caggiula left practice early following a collision along the boards. Granato said the team was still evaluating the injury when he met with the media. 


Here's how the Sabres lined up, including Caggiula:

53 Jeff Skinner 37 Casey Mittelstadt 29 Vinnie Hinostroza
74 Rasmus Asplund 72 Tage Thompson 71 Victor Olofsson
28 Zemgus Girgensons 20 Cody Eakin 21 Kyle Okposo
96 Anders Bjork 24 Dylan Cozens 91 Drake Caggiula
25 Arttu Ruotsalainen 15 John Hayden  
26 Rasmus Dahlin 10 Henri Jokiharju 41 Craig Anderson
8 Robert Hagg 13 Mark Pysyk 31 Dustin Tokarski
78 Jacob Bryson 33 Colin Miller  
4 Will Butcher    

The Sabres also offered a first glimpse of their power-play units for the regular season. Rasmus Dahlin manned the point on one unit, with Mittelstadt (left) and Victor Olofsson (right) on the flanks, Jeff Skinner in the bumper position and Tage Thompson at the net front.

The other unit comprised of Jacob Bryson (point), Colin Miller (left flank), Dylan Cozens (bumper), Okposo (right flank), and Rasmus Asplund (net front). 

Granato said the Sabres have been studying the tendencies of successful power plays to prepare for the season. 

"What are power plays doing when they're scoring? And we need to just focus on that," he said. "That's getting outnumbered situations at the net front, getting pucks to the net, retrieving pucks. All those little subtleties that will add up to more production are what our focus will be as we move along."

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