The Buffalo Sabres spent a bulk of their practice Monday morning at First Niagara Center focusing on improving their defensive zone coverage.
One point of emphasis for interim coach Ted Nolan is having the players talk to each other more frequently on the ice, especially when they're defending in their own end. Some of his veteran players are picking up on the message and stressed why communication on the ice is a key component to being successful.
“It starts with communication, making sure everyone’s on the same page, that you know what the other guy’s doing,” Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. “If you are trying to guess what your teammates are doing out there, you’re thinking too much. We’re just trying to take the thought process out of it and just make sure it becomes natural.”
Nolan has noticed that he’s working with a quieter bunch and is making an effort to change that.
“We’ve talked about communication, talking down low. We’re a very quiet team. We don’t talk enough,” he said. “I’ve always said good communication eliminates duplication, so you’re not doing someone else’s job. We worked on that so hopefully we’ll get better as we go.”
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Defenseman Mike Weber is usually one of the most vocal players on the ice and would like to see that trait be more prevalent among his teammates.
“I think it’s just coming down to communication,” he said. “Any guy you’re going to talk to in here today or any day from this day forward should just be about talking.”
The Sabres spent about half of the practice on one end of the ice, working on defensive zone assignments. Nolan wants the players to be able to know where to go without thinking about it. The team has been battling breakdowns in their own end all season and it’s cost them points in several games.
“There are glimpses of playing well and then we collapse. We just have to learn to do it on a consistent basis and having faith in one another. Right now I don’t think we have too much faith in one another and we need to work on that.
The Sabres kept the same lines and pairings in practice as they skated with Sunday evening against Detroit. Nolan said that he would like to keep the forwards together so that they can begin to create some chemistry.
He also said that it’s important for the coaching staff to maintain a sense of continuity when it comes to how the team practices and what they work on each day.
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“When we ask the players to be consistent, we have to consistent with our message and our delivery. We can’t work on defensive zone coverage one day and forget about it the next two weeks,” he said. “We have to do it on a consistent basis and it’s the same thing with the lines. We have to keep them somewhat consistent so you can learn what each and every one does on a line.”
Brian Flynn centered the fourth line Sunday evening. Nolan was pleased with Flynn’s play their on Sunday and said he would like to keep him there for the time being.
“He has to be a little bit stronger, but we all have to be a little bit stronger. I really like his hockey sense,” Nolan said. “He jumps in, he’s got a very quiet demeanor, he doesn’t say too much. But he always listens and he pays attention and he always does what we ask him to do.”
Flynn skated 11:58 and recorded two shots on goal against Detroit.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Flynn said. I need to improve a little bit on face offs, I think, and work a little more on the D-zone coverage, but I think it’s something that I feel comfortable with and I think I continue to improve and get better. I can see myself playing this position.”
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
63 Tyler Ennis – 23 Ville Leino – 9 Steve Ott
72 Luke Adam – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
82 Marcus Foligno – 65 Brian Flynn – 78 Corey Tropp
32 John Scott
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 52 Alexander Sulzer
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
44 Brayden McNabb – 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber – 4 Jamie McBain
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth