The past two days, the Buffalo Sabres have been able to take advantage of a rare break in the schedule to take on a pair of focused practice sessions.
On Monday, the team worked on defensive zone play and moving the puck up ice. Tuesday, their attention turned to the offense and the power play. Practice started with a three-on-three game in the neutral zone between the forwards with the nets turned along the boards.
Players appeared to be more vocal than in previous practices and coach Ron Rolston said fostering that type of environment is important.
“We tried to today to create different atmospheres for that,” he said after practice at First Niagara Center. “That’s our job to continue to do that and get that mindset in practice so they come out there and right away, they’re engaged in the practice so we don’t start slow.”
Right now, just stay positive. Get back to the basics and go from there. - Marcus Foligno
Slow starts have been an issue for the team this season. Through 10 games, they’ve been outshot 138-77 in first periods alone. Buffalo has been outshot 33-10 in the first period in each of their past two games as well.
“We’ve talked about it a lot. I think everyone’s aware of it now,” Rolston said. “It’s just being able to go out early on and do it. We talked about it today even at the start of practice. That’s why we started with a game today in practice. It’s been a focus of ours and it’s a mindset that the guys have to have.”
In addition to having better starts, the players are working on maintaining a positive outlook, despite the team’s 1-8-1 record.
“With a lot of young guys, we’ve just got to stick together,” Marcus Foligno said. “That’s the biggest thing. You can’t pout, get negative. It’s just going to spread and definitely take this team down even further. Right now, just stay positive. Get back to the basics and go from there.”
The first power-play unit featured a slightly different look as it featured four forwards. Foligno, Thomas Vanek, Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis joined defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on the unit for special teams work. Foligno worked primarily as the center and Hodgson shifted in and out on the left point.
“It puts a little more onus on Ennis and myself to play defense if something breaks down, but that’s not a problem,” Hodgson said. “I think putting Marcus in the middle is going to help us because he’s got such a cannon of a shot. He’s going to pull guys to the middle more.”
The second power-play unit comprised of Mikhail Grigorenko, Steve Ott, Drew Stafford, Jamie McBain and Tyler Myers.
Ville Leino skated again with the team. He’s still on the injured reserve list as he recovers from a cracked rib sustained on Oct. 2 and the coaching staff continues to monitor his progress.
“He looks like he’s moving around well right now,” Rolston said. “We haven’t had a lot of pounding yet, but that’s going to come, so we’re trying to get him in shape too, in terms of game shape and skating shape again.”
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 82 Marcus Foligno – 63 Tyler Ennis
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 12 Kevin Porter
23 Ville Leino – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
78 Corey Tropp (non-contact)
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
61 Nikita Zadorov – 4 Jamie McBain
6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth