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by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres

It’s only been one day, but Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan already likes what he sees.

Broken up into three groups, the team skated Friday at First Niagara Center for the first time during training camp.

“I loved their first day,” Nolan said. “The guys’ energy level was there, their focus, they were energized. They seemed like they really wanted to be on the ice. With the additions we made this summer, you could just kind of tell that it overflowed in the room. So I was really, really happy with today.”


An emphasis was put on passing drills and line work as the players try to familiarize themselves not only with each other, but with the new assistant coaching staff. Bryan Trottier, Tom Coolen, Danny Flynn and Arturs Irbe – hired by Nolan over the summer – were active in running drills and communicating openly with the players.

“The one thing I was really happy with today was our coaching staff,” Nolan said. “They’re experienced. They know how to coach and know how to teach. A new set of eyes on one player makes a world of difference.”

There a few players under the age of 20 that have a shot at making the squad. Defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, first-rounders in 2013, will both be given an opportunity to crack the opening night roster.

Both players put in a hard summer’s worth of work off the ice to prepare for training camp.

“Rasmus is one of those kids that looks like he doesn’t want to go anywhere but stay here in Buffalo,” Nolan said.

As for Zadorov, he has less professional experience than Ristolainen and must go back to the London Knights, his junior team, if he doesn’t make the Sabres roster. What’s best for his development will play a huge role in what the coaching staff and management decide to do with him.


“He needs a little bit more time, but is he too big for junior? Is he too strong for junior? Who knows?” Nolan said of Zadorov. “I think that’s what training camp is all about. We’re going to evaluate him on a daily basis and put him in some games, see how he does and work with him.

“…We want to demonstrate to these young kids that they have to earn these positions and not just give it to them. If you want a successful organization, I think that’s how it has to be.”

Nolan said something similar on Thursday about 2014 second-overall pick Sam Reinhart’s chances of making the team. Reinhart skated on a line with Marcus Foligno and Chris Stewart on Friday.

“It’s almost like bringing the old phrase back, ‘We’re going to do it the old fashioned way. We’re going to earn it.’ And Sam’s no different,” Nolan said. “There are some special players that come around once in a while that don’t have to wait until they’re 22.

“Some of them are ready. That’s the great thing that training camp’s all about. We watched him in a rookie camp in a little gathering here, we watched him in Traverse City. Now we get to get him some bigger boys in exhibition games and we’ll see how he goes there.

“We’ll evaluate it and if we decide that he fits in then we’ll keep him. If he feel that maybe he could use some more development, we’ll decide it then.”

Nolan said that Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth will receive full games during the preseason. They’ll likely alternate starts as well.

“Both these guys are trying to help the Buffalo Sabres,” Nolan said. “It’s not about their personal stats. It’s not ‘I’m better than you.’ It’s ‘Let’s be better together. And if you take that spot for the first little while, I’m going to be right on your behind and try to get it from you. Hopefully it’s a nice, healthy relationship and a healthy competition because there’s nothing better.”


Nolan also had an update on goaltender Matt Hackett, who injured his knee during the penultimate game of the season. Hackett told Nolan that he feels good and that he feels like he could be cleared to return to the ice soon.

“I was expecting November and around that time, but his progress, it’s healing much better,” Nolan said. “But that was Matt talking. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the medical staff yet, but he was feeling good about himself.”

The Buffalo Sabres today announced that the team’s preseason game against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, Sept. 21, will air on MSG in the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse markets. MSG will be carrying Comcast SportsNet’s telecast of the 5 p.m. game, which will be played at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

Group C: 10-11:15 a.m.
Group B: 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.
Group A: 1-2:15 p.m.

All on-ice practice sessions during training camp are open to the public.

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