Rasmus Asplund appeared in 29 games for the Sabres after making his NHL debut last season. He realizes now that the grind took its toll mentally.
"I was still (thinking about) yesterday and thinking about the game yesterday," Asplund said. "Just my mind never really got a rest. When you get to play like 25, 30 games like I did last year, your mental game is not there. You feel tired, you're not sleeping well."
Asplund put mental training atop his list of priorities during the offseason. He is seeing the results of late, having carved out a role in the lineup after beginning the season shifting back and forth between Rochester and the taxi squad. He has four goals in just 10 games this season, three of which have come in his past five appearances.
Sabres interim head coach Don Granato referred to Asplund's taste of Buffalo last season as an "apprenticeship" of sorts. Granato saw Asplund return this season as a more refined player, aware of his strengths and weaknesses and willing to take command of his role at the NHL level.
Video: PRACTICE REPORT
"That's what you see now," Granato said. "He was finding and searching his way around the NHL a year ago and now he's targeting what to do and what he can do within a shift and a game. And that's where you see the results now. He's very result oriented.
"He knows what's wanted from the coach, from the system he plays, and obviously within the game itself and he's ready for that next opportunity. Being ready to seize it is really the biggest difference as he's built himself up."
The biggest factor, Asplund said, has been his ability to leave games in the past. He set aside a half an hour after each workout during the offseason to lay down and complete thought exercises that essentially allowed him to reset his mind.
He's carried the practice into his postgame routine during a season that has been as mentally demanding as any, with a compacted schedule compounded by off-ice restrictions.
Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Asplund
"I watch my video, then I do those exercises until I kind of close the book and just put that day in the past," he said. "I'm looking forward to the next day, which I felt last year I didn't do."
Video: BEFORE PRACTICE: Granato
The Sabres held an optional skate in preparation for back-to-back games against New Jersey and Washington on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Thursday's game will be the last of the season between the Sabres and Devils.
Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. The puck drops at 7.