The Sabres are focused on getting in the zone.
The Pacific Time zone, that is.
Preparing for a four-day road trip in which they will face all three California-based teams, the Sabres opted to leave a few days early to get adjusted to the time difference.
“We’ve done that in previous years that I can remember so it will be good to get out there,” captain Brian Campbell said. “Especially a long flight that you are going out there with… you don’t want to be probably playing the next day. It is not your favorite thing to do.”
The west coast tour begins Wednesday when the Sabres take on last season’s Stanley Cup Champions, the Anaheim Ducks. It continues the following night against the Los Angeles Kings and ends Saturday in San Jose against the Sharks.
This will be the first time since October 2003 that Buffalo will face these opponents away from HSBC Arena.
The last time Buffalo ventured to the west coast, a three-game stand against Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary, was January 2007, prompting the coaching staff to take extra steps.
“The reason we do it [leave a day early] is you lose the three hours going out [to the west coast],” Lindy Ruff said. “We try to keep them on a normal schedule by getting out there and getting a day of practice in and trying to get your meals in that time frame. I think it helps. I found just if you fly out the day before you just don’t seem to catch up. We’re playing three days in four nights and it gives us one more day just settle in and get into a routine.”
"It will be an advantage I'm sure," Ryan Miller
said. "I am glad the team decided to do it. It's tough to go five hours in three time zones so it will be a nice chance to kind of relax for one night where you don't have to get right into a new city and get ready for a game. You can take a little chance to relax and see a little bit what the city has to offer."
The flight to California may be long- approximately five hours- but the Sabres are not complaining about their travel schedule. In comparison to teams in the west, the eastern teams have much closer proximity to one another.
“We’re kind of spoiled out here in the East compared to some of those other teams who will always have to travel,” Stafford said. “Some of their minimum flight times are two, three hours. For us, we are back in forth in about an hour.”
“It’s just something you have to play with,” defenseman Nathan Paetsch said. “Those guys [in the Western Conference], they deal with a lot of travel throughout their season. We obviously are pretty lucky with our schedule that we have, for the most part, compared to those guys that play out in the West. So it’s just something we have to deal with.”
What the Sabres will not have to endure, at least for a week, is the cold temperatures surrounding Buffalo.
“It’s good that we’re going out there early,” Stafford said. “Hopefully it’s nice out there too if we have some time off and we’re not at the rink. “So I guess that’s something new besides Buffalo weather.”
The snow, and the fans, will be waiting when the team returns Sunday.