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Under Housley, Sabres are looking to practice like they play

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

If there's one thing we've already learned about Phil Housley as coach of the Buffalo Sabres, it's that he expects his players to practice like they play. Practice sessions have generally been limited to around an hour, sacrificing length for pace and competition. 

Having pushed his players hard in practice on Sunday and with three days still remaining in advance of their home opener against Montreal, Housley opted to keep the Sabres off the ice on Monday.

"It's a long week," Housley said. "I thought it was a good time to push the pace yesterday, a little bit more compete in our practice which I like to implement more when it allows it because I think it's good to be competitive when there's points on the line.

"Today is just more of a maintenance day because of the long week. I thought it would be good just to get an off-ice work out and get their minds right for tomorrow and Wednesday, but certainly we'll push the pace tomorrow as we gear up for our first game."

Video: Sabres Now (10/2/17)

The Sabres have been able to push the tempo thanks in part to their unique situation at HarborCenter, where they've regularly utilized both of the on-site rinks for practice. The team often begins practice on New Wave Energy Rink, then takes the short walk to KeyBank Rink midway through. 

"I like to take advantage of HarborCenter with the two sheets of ice when we can because it's always good to do the things that we're trying to do at a high tempo and a high pace, and a fresh sheet of ice does that," Housley said. "Mentally, I think the guys feel better and they feel fast when they're not on the ice for 40 minutes on the same sheet."

It's been common over the past three weeks to hear players cite the intensity at practice and how that may translate into games. 
"It does a lot of things," Jason Pominville said. "It shows how hard we can compete and how hard we can push each other to compete harder. Usually when you have those types of practices you come out with a little more energy, a little more urgency and a little more compete in your game. Those are things we want to crank up before the season starts. Yesterday was a good step."

The Sabres will return to practice Tuesday morning. Here are some more notes from Monday's player availability:


No decision yet on a captain

Video: TRAINING CAMP: Housley

Housley said that the team has not yet made a decision on a captain for this season. Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Zemgus Girgensons, Jake McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen have all wore an "A" as an alternate captain at some point in the preseason.

"Not in the immediate future," Housley said. "We're still evaluating that part, of who's going to wear a letter. We have a good leadership group in there so that's something that the coaches will be talking today and tomorrow [about]. 


Pominville impressed by Reinhart

Pominville said at the start of camp that he had been unaware that Sam Reinhart could play both at center and on the wing. He played on a line with Reinhart on Friday and came away impressed.

"He's not that old and just the way he acts off the ice and on the ice, he's almost like a guy that's been around and been there, done that," Pominville said. "His ability to make the little details, little plays, whether it's offensively or defensively, a lot of things that go unnoticed he does really well so he's fun to play with in that sense."


Circle the wagons

The Sabres will have a tough act to follow after the Buffalo Bills improved to 3-1 with a road win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Housley took time on Monday to congratulate Bills coach Sean McDermott on the win.

"I just want to congratulate Sean on a huge win over Atlanta, that's big for their ball club," Housley said. "Hopefully we can jump on their backs with the enthusiasm that the Bills have brought to this point but it's great to see."

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