Tuesday night is one the Buffalo Sabres would like to put past them. After losing 4-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre and recording a franchise-low 10 shots on net, the Sabres took the ice Wednesday at First Niagara Center for another practice.
Coach Ted Nolan skated them for about an hour-and-a-half and at one point, he stopped a drill and yelled at some players to get a point across that they need to be more alert and have stronger communication.
Through 10 games, the Sabres are 2-8-0 and have scored just 10 regulation goals so far. Six different players have combined for those 10 goals. Buffalo has also been shut out four times.
“I always give our team a 10-game grace period, give them a little bit of rope and maybe someone will hang themselves. What we saw over the last 10 or so games, we saw that,” Nolan said. “Taking it easy is over now. We’ve got to work and I’ll take full responsibility for that. Maybe I didn’t push them hard enough.
“But today’s the day we have to start. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘If it’s not working, you’re not working hard enough,’ so I was upset about the way we worked and we’ve just got to be better.”
Over the course of Wednsday’s practice, a few players displayed some emotion, breaking sticks and exchanging words amongst themselves during drills.
“You can see today a little bit, the guys are pissed off,” forward Zemgus Girgensons said. “That’s something you kind of need to when you’re struggling so it’s something that can get the fire back in this locker room.”
The Sabres are set to host the Boston Bruins on Thursday at 7 p.m. Jhonas Enroth will start in goal.
COMING UP EMPTY
The Sabres’ offensive struggles aren’t an easy fix and the players are working to find a solution. They know they’ll likely need more than 10 shots most nights if they want to win a game, but finding out how to get those shots and do it consistently has been a recurring issue.
Alternate captain Matt Moulson is one player without a goal yet. He’s a three-time 30 goal-scorer but this is his longest goal drought to start a season.
“We’ve got to get the puck in the zone to get some zone time and some shots. It’s hard to score when you don’t have any shots,” Mouslon said. “I think that’s our first step, is getting some shots and maybe you can generate some rebounds. When you’re in a slump, you try to get a dirty goal to get out of it or one off you and in, but it’s hard to do that when you can’t even get pucks on the net.”
Sabres captain Brian Gionta said the team has talked enough about what they need to do and they now need to produce results on the ice. He said they have to shift their mindset if they want to change the culture.
“We’ve just got to find ways to do the right thing,” he said. “We’re losing too many battles, too many turnovers and we’re just not taking care of what we need to.
“…The way we’re playing, guys should not be happy about it. Frustration should be pretty high right now.
Girgensons said the message from Nolan was a simple one.
“If you’re not going to work, you’re not going to play,” Girgensons said.
‘LET’S BE A LOUD QUIET’
When it comes to talking on the ice, Nolan noted that even though he may not have the most talkative group, they need to find ways to effectively communicate.
“Some people are very emotional; some are not. Right now, we’ve got a quiet group of athletes. They’re not boisterous, they’re not loud,” Nolan said. “You don’t try to make something that’s not there but you have to work with what’s there.
“I learned a long time ago from one of the best coaches there was in the game, Fred Shero, and he said, ‘You’ve got to learn to win with what you’ve got or you don’t win at all.’ We can’t turn something into something we haven’t got so if we’re quiet, let’s be a loud quiet.”
The lines at practice were shaken up a bit. Center Cody McCormick was promoted up to a line with Marcus Foligno and Chris Stewart.
Drew Stafford was back on the right wing with Moulson and center Tyler Ennis. Girgensons was reunited with Torrey Mitchell on the left side and Gionta on the right.
“[McCormick] gives you what he has to give. Maybe by putting him with Marcus and Stewart, maybe that’ll rub off on those guys,” Nolan said.
“Girgensons, there’s never an issue with his approach to games, the way he approaches practice and everything. If enough people watch him, they would learn that. He’s with Mitchell, who’s giving us what he has to give all the time and Gionta does the same thing.”
Cody Hodgson rotated in on the fourth line with Nicolas Deslauriers, Sam Reinhart, Brian Flynn and Patrick Kaleta. Nolan indicated that Hodgson may soon find himself in the press box as a healthy scratch.
In some positive news, goaltender Matt Hackett, who sustained a knee injury on April 12, practiced with the team for the first time this season. There’s no clear timetable yet for his return. He’s currently on the non-roster injured list.
WEDNESDAY’S PRACTICE GROUP
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
17 Torrey Mitchell – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno – 8 Cody McCormick – 80 Chris Stewart
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 23 Sam Reinhart – 19 Cody Hodgson – 65 Brian Flynn – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 41 Andrej Meszaros
61 Andre Benoit – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 24 Tyson Strachan
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth
31 Matt Hackett