TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. – Following an overtime win against the New York Rangers prospects on Friday, Buffalo Sabres coach Chadd Cassidy decided to give his team Saturday off.
Buffalo is 2-0 so far in the eight-team NHL Prospects Tournament with five points (each regulation win is worth three points) and currently leads the Ted Lindsay Division.
One point against the Carolina Hurricanes prospects on Sunday would clinch first place for the Sabres and a date in the championship game Monday night against the prospects of the Detroit Red Wings organization. Detroit has already locked up first-place in the Gordie Howe Division.
To prepare for the game against Carolina, Cassidy, the coach of the Rochester Americans who is serving as the bench boss for the Sabres during the tournament, decided to make Saturday a maintenance day, keeping the team off the ice and allowing them to recuperate both mentally and physically.
“As we talked about it [Friday] night as a coaching staff, we’re really impressed with the pace of play and the physical play so far here, but it takes a toll on your team,” Cassidy said Saturday morning. “…Even though they’re young – we see all the energy they have – these game are high-tempo, very physical [and] mentally taxing. So we want them to be prepared.”
The tournament schedule calls for four games in five days. While that may be manageable, the coaching staff also must look ahead to the coming weeks when it comes to planning rest. Sabres training camp opens on Sept. 11 and keeping some of the young players with a chance to play in the NHL this season healthy is also a priority.
| Chad Ruhwedel |
“So long-term gains, you have to kind of manage their energy and manage the injuries and just the nagging stuff because we don’t want them to be completely worn down by the time we get to Buffalo,” Cassidy said. “We want these guys – Joel Armia, [Zemgus] Girgensons, [Chad] Ruhwedel, all these kids – [they] need to be able to go there and put their best foot forward to have an opportunity to make that club. It is a balancing act.”
Cassidy also said he has not yet decided on a starting goalie for Sunday. Connor Knapp is the only goaltender to not yet see any game action. Nathan Lieuwen started against the Blue Jackets on Thursday and Andrey Makarov picked up the win against the Rangers on Friday.
As far as any other lineup changes, Cassidy said it depends on how some players are feeling, especially when it comes to those nagging injuries.
The Sabres’ tilt against Carolina on Sunday is set to start at 3:30 p.m. and can be heard live on 1520 AM and at Sabres.com. Full highlights and locker room interviews will also be available at Sabres.com following the game.