When he came into camp a year ago, Zemgus Girgensons was coming off a season to be proud of, one in which he put up 30 points (15+15) in only 61 games and was voted into his first All-Star Game. At age 21 and with a better supporting cast around him, it was hard to imagine he'd go anywhere but up.
As last season wore on, however, he never did find the same offensive consistency. His point total dipped to 18 (7+11) despite playing in 10 more games than he had the year prior. Quite frankly, he says, it was a disappointing season.
Now, he comes into camp feeling a little bit different than ever before.
"Definitely a little bit more pressure to do better after a down year," he said following practice on Sunday at HarborCenter. "You want to prove to everyone what you're capable of and the last couple days, I've been going pretty hard. I'm trying to put everything out there and show I'm back."
Girgensons showed it at the scrimmage on Sunday, as did his teammates on the white squad in a 3-2 win. It was the most intense of the three scrimmages this weekend, and Girgensons said he thinks his practice group might be the chippiest of the three at training camp.
Video: GIRGENSONS: Training Camp
Maybe that's because they have the most to prove.
Matt Moulson is also a member of that group, and like Girgensons, he hopes to have a better season that last year. Moulson recorded 21 points (8+13) in 81 games, battling through multiple scoring droughts until his hard mid-season work paid off with three goals in his last six games.
Moulson, perennially a 40-point scorer before last season, knows some might have lost hope. But he believes he put the proper work in, both mentally and physically, to position himself to a point where he can return to his old form.
"I definitely have a chip on my shoulder coming in to prove a lot of people wrong that maybe lost a little belief," Moulson said. "I have a trainer, a skating coach, my family and maybe a couple of close friends that still truly believe in me. This summer was about making sure I put in the work and believe in myself to get back to where I want to be."
The white squad also includes Nicolas Deslauriers, who scored twice in the scrimmage on Sunday. He notched his first goal into an open cage after the puck was misplayed behind the net and then tipped in an Erik Burgdoerfer shot for his second of the game.
Deslauriers stood out for another reason in Saturday's scrimmage, when he laid a hard open-ice hit on Mac Bennett to clear a lane for Moulson, who nearly scored but rang a shot off the crossbar. It was the type of hit that showed just how seriously Deslauriers is taking this camp, which is born out of necessity as up-and-coming prospects create roster competition.
"I think for me, as not a top-six guy - obviously, you always want to be in that top six - but for me my job is completely different," Deslauriers said. "I think every camp for me is really important and that's why I just try to work hard over the summer and come here ready and just treat every camp like I have to make the team."
You can watch Deslauriers' two goals and the rest of the highlights from Sunday's scrimmage below in today's Sabres in :90 with Brian Duff.
Video: Sabres in :90 - Scrimmage highlights from 9/25
Let's play some games
The preseason schedule begins tomorrow for Sabres with a game against the Minnesota Wild at Penn State. It's the beginning of a busy week for the Sabres, with more games to follow on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
There's no TV broadcast on Monday, but you can hear the game live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m. Dan Dunleavy and Andrew Peters will be on the call. Visit us at Sabres.com and on Twitter for coverage throughout the day and for highlights following the game.