Matt Moulson and Evander Kane both were absent as the Buffalo Sabres returned to practice at First Niagara Center on Sunday morning. Moulson felt under the weather and Kane took the day for personal reasons, according to coach Dan Bylsma.
For the players that were on the ice, the positivity from their 6-3 come-from-behind win in Boston on Saturday still hadn't worn off. That game – in which Buffalo trailed 3-1 with 13:01 remaining in the third period – was just the latest example of the "no quit" attitude that the Sabres have displayed all season.
"I even go back mentally and in my notes to preseason, when we've gotten down by two goals in games and we don't seem to panic or sink our shoulders down," Bylsma said. "We even have maybe more resolve to keep on playing, keep on fighting, keep on going.
"I'd have to go back and look at the facts of even our preseason games, but that's the way our mentality was in preseason and that's the way our mentality's been in a number of games we've gotten down in."
Bylsma has a good memory. The Sabres trailed in three of their four preseason wins, coming back from a 1-0 deficit against Minnesota, from 3-1 against Toronto and 2-0 against Ottawa. They beat the Wild by a score of 3-2 and beat the Maple Leafs and Senators each 6-4.
Since then, the comebacks have continued. They can even be broken down into a few different categories:
•The Late Gamers: These are the comebacks in which the Sabres swung the entire momentum of the game in their favor in the third period. The win over Boston on Saturday can be filed here, as can 2-1 wins over the Islanders and Red Wings on Nov. 1 and Dec. 14, respectively.
Buffalo erased 1-0 leads in the third and won before the end of regulation in both of those two contests. The game against Detroit especially came down to the wire, with both of the Sabres' goals coming in the final five minutes.
•The Down Early Comebacks: Three of the Sabres' wins have come when the team trailed 1-0 after the first period: against Toronto on Oct. 21, at Nashville on Nov. 28 and against Arizona on Dec. 4. Buffalo won those games 2-1 (OT), 4-1 and 5-2, respectively.
All in all, the Sabres have six wins this season when their opponent has scored first, a mark that is tied for eighth in the League.
•The Near Comebacks: Sometimes, the Sabres have been able to come back in a game but weren't able to hold on for a win. Goals that would have caused third-period ties against Ottawa on Oct. 8 and Dallas on Nov. 17 were erased due to coach's challenges, for example.
Other instances that fall under this category include shootout losses to St. Louis and Detroit, both in which the Sabres rallied back from deficits but came away with only one point in the standings.
"I do think we have developed a [feeling] that we know we can come back," Bylsma said. "We've won four times coming back. There's a couple more we probably could have won that we lost in a shootout or overtime. But we have shown that ability that we are going to be able to come back in games."
When David Krejci scored to make the game 3-1 in favor of Boston on Saturday, it was especially disconcerting considering that Buffalo hadn't practiced in five days. But on the bench, there was a consistent message: Just get the next one.
The Sabres did, and it was a familiar suspect who came through. Mike Weber took a shot from the blue line that bounced off the end boards to who else, but Ryan O'Reilly – the team's leading scorer – who put the puck in on the far side to close the gap. It was all Sabres from there.
"We've had a never-quit, never-stop kind of attitude all season long," Weber said. "Once we kind of got the next one the boys started rolling and it was pretty impressive."
O'Reilly has been a common factor late in games for Buffalo. Of his team-leading 32 points this season, 19 (8+11) have come in the third period.
"We've had players step up in those particular spots and a lot of times it's been Ryan O'Reilly," Bylsma said. "Last night, we go 3-1 in that game with 11 minutes to go; you're kind of looking at the clock going 'this is the game on the 26th after we've had three days off, maybe this one's over.
"They go out and get us the goal to bring it back to 3-2 and all of a sudden, you're back within one and kind of sparked us with that shift."
The Sabres will need to carry the confidence from their win in Boston into their next two games, a home-and-home set against the Washington Capitals. Washington is 14-1-1 in its last 16 games and winners of seven in a row. Coverage begins Monday at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B.
Goaltender Robin Lehner skated ahead of practice on Sunday morning and is inching closer to a potential return, Bylsma said. Lehner hasn't played since sustaining a high-ankle sprain against Ottawa in the season opener.
Bylsma left the option open for Lehner to potentially play rehab games in Rochester before returning to the Sabres.
"I think in the next two weeks, as we map it out, he's going to see an increased level of progression from where he's at right now to practice, to game simulation, scrimmage, to possibly getting in a rehab situation," the coach said.
Defenseman Mark Pysyk, meanwhile, is continuing to rehab from a lower-body injury that has forced him to miss 17 games.
"He's progressing with workouts off the ice and we hope to see him soon on the ice."
88 Jamie McGinn – 90 Ryan O'Reilly – 23 Sam Reinhart
63 Tyler Ennis – 15 Jack Eichel – 82 Marcus Foligno
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 17 David Legwand
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe – 47 Zach Bogosian
6 Mike Weber – 46 Cody Franson
25 Carlo Colaiacovo
31 Chad Johnson
35 Linus Ullmark