The Sabres used Friday to make a pit stop in Buffalo before they play the last of a seven-game road trip in Toronto on Saturday. Since the team last skated in HSBC Arena, it’s gained a new player, won four of six road games, entered the playoff picture and even saw changes made to the home dressing room.
While the season-long stretch of road games is not quite over, it can still be viewed as a success. The Sabres have gone 4-1-1 through the first six games to gain nine of a possible 12 points and entered the day in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings with 74 points (33-26-8).
“So far it’s been a good trip,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said following a half-hour practice on Friday. “Most games have had a playoff-type atmosphere and the intensity was way up. I thought we had a couple periods here and there you don’t like but I thought the response to those periods was good.”
Five of Buffalo’s last seven games have been decided by one goal, four of which have gone past regulation. With just 15 games remaining in the regular season, Ruff expects the trend of one-goal games to continue.
“We know every night that every game is real close. It’s one-goal games, it’s shootouts, overtimes. It’s a tough league right now. You can’t look at the schedule and say ‘oh good, we’ve got an easy game coming up’ because there are none of them. We know we’re in for a battle still.” Thomas Vanek
, who has recorded five points (1-4-5) on the road trip despite missing the game in Pittsburgh with the flu, said the team needs to keep up its late-season push to the playoffs.
“We’re desperate. Every point counts and I think we’ve played that way,” Vanek said. “Every team is so close (in the standings) but we’re not in a position to let up. All the guys in here know that we don’t have a cushion at all, so we’ve just got to keep going.”Boyes is Back in Town:
Forward Brad Boyes
, who was acquired prior to the start of the road trip and played in Buffalo for the Blues just three weeks ago, skated at HSBC Arena as a member of the Sabres for the first time on Friday.
The 28-year-old forward has collected six points (3-3-6), including the overtime game-winner in Boston on Thursday, in his first six games with his new club and said it has been beneficial to spend his first two weeks with the team on the road.
“Being on the road for as long as we have, I think that part makes it easier for myself to get along with guys, to get to know them a little bit more,” Boyes said. “When you get days off (on the road), you’re hanging out with them as opposed to being home and in your own houses, so that part has been helpful. To get to know guys real quick is important.”
Vanek said Boyes had fit in nicely with his new teammates both on the ice and off.
“This locker room is a pretty easy one to fit into if you come in and you’re pretty level-headed and you don’t have an ego,” said Vanek. “Brad’s been great. He’s good in the room and he’s obviously a good player, and he fit right in. I think if you’re comfortable, it translates onto the ice. We made him welcome and I think he feels pretty good around here and he’s been real good for us.”
On the ice, Boyes has been forced to play both wing and center as a result of injuries while also learning a system that is different than what he played in St. Louis.
“We’re a team that gets guys up in the rush, that plays fast… There’s been a couple times where I’ve been sitting there waiting and thinking of what to do, whereas last game was a lot more of just reacting and getting more accustomed to the style. It’s good, it works for us and I enjoy it,” Boyes said.New carpet features logo:
While the team was away on the road trip, new owners Terry and Kim Pegula had new carpet installed in the Sabres’ dressing room that prominently features the team’s logo in the center of the room.
The upgrade received rave reviews from both players and coaches.
“I thought it was awesome,” Ruff said of the logo on the carpet. “You walk in, that’s what it’s all about. They did a great job. It’s the focal point of the room now and it looks terrific.”
“For Terry, he’s starting to slowly make things his own and it’s a nice gesture to have it done while we’re gone,” said Ryan Miller
. “We’ve been on the road for a little while here and we’ve been grinding along, and to come home and have them do something nice for us feels good.”
|The new carpet in the Sabres' dressing room features the logo (Photo: Scott Miner) |
Team President Ted Black said this was the first of many more changes to come for the dressing room.
“I think it’s a small, symbolic first step but it’s something that Terry and Kim and I talked about doing from Day One,” Black said. “We want to start doing the million little things to show these guys that we appreciate what they do. As Terry said, ‘treat people the way you want to be treated.’ That’s one of his rules of business, and the players are no different. We want to treat them with respect, first and foremost, and treat them as part of the Pegula family.”Injury Updates:
Ruff gave an injury update following practice, and it was a lengthy one. The most positive news he shared is that Jochen Hecht
has been cleared to play and is scheduled to return to action in Toronto on Saturday. Hecht has missed the last four games with an upper body injury.Drew Stafford
, who left Thursday’s game in Boston with what Ruff called a “slight hamstring strain,” did not practice Friday and is listed as day-to-day.
“Obviously (Drew) wasn’t able to skate today. We’ll re-evaluate. I would put him in the questionable category for tomorrow,” Ruff said.
Other players who did not practice on Friday were Mike Grier, Paul Gaustad, Chris Butler, Patrick Lalime and Patrick Kaleta
. Ruff said Grier was given a “maintenance day” while Gaustad and Butler were each nursing upper body injuries and both players were being evaluated. Lalime, meanwhile, is still dealing with a knee injury while Kaleta is recovering from a severe bone bruise on his leg that he suffered last Sunday in Minnesota. Ruff said Kaleta will remain sidelined for at least another week.