With First Niagara Center occupied by the set-up crews for a concert, the Buffalo Sabres took to the ice next door at the HARBORCENTER
complex for the first time this year.
The facility – which currently features two NHL-size rinks, a restaurant and sports bar, a one-of-a-kind Tim Hortons Cafe & Bake Shop that pays homage to former Sabre Tim Horton and a state-of-the-art training facility – opened at the end of October. A Marriott hotel will be ready by the summer and additional retail space will also enhance the experience in the coming months.
After practice Thursday, many of the players came away impressed with the new digs. That group included Buffalo native Patrick Kaleta, who knew what was once called the Webster Block best as a parking lot.
“This building is unbelievable. For some of the guys it was the first time in here, and we’ve all heard nothing but great things,” Kaleta said. “To have this place in our backyard is something special and it’s asset to us as a team and as a community.”
One of Kaleta’s longtime teammates, Drew Stafford, also had a favorable review.
“For as long as I’ve been in this city I’ve lived down by the waterfront and to see this planned and built over the last couple years, and then to finally be inside and look out those windows was pretty cool,” he said.
Following the team’s 5-1 loss in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Sabres head coach Ted Nolan was eager to put the defeat in the rearview mirror.
Prior to the start of the practice, Nolan spoke to the team about putting the game behind them.
“We just wanted to forget about that Winnipeg game. It was obviously a tough situation because of the cancellation and the rescheduling,” Nolan said. “We just want to forget about that and get back to the way we were playing before and have the guys feeling good about themselves again.”
With three days worth of rest between Tuesday’s loss and Saturday’s home game against Colorado, Nolan believes the team has a great opportunity to regroup.
“We had a lot of games and you can see how fresh the guys are after just one day off,” Nolan said. “I’m a big believer in rest and recovery so that you have more energy to play. Three days rest is perfect this time of year.”
READY TO RETURN
When the Sabres take the ice against Colorado, they may have a veteran defenseman back in the lineup.
After missing the past two games with a finger injury, alternate captain Josh Gorges hopes to be on the ice Saturday night. The 30-year-old was close to playing in both games he missed, but wasn’t able to receive clearance from the team’s medical staff.
“I think I’ll be able to able to play, but then again I thought I was ready to go for the last two,” Gorges said. “We’ll re-evaluate it and wait to hear what the doctors and trainers say, but I don’t think there is any reason why I wouldn’t be in the lineup.”
Despite the likely return of Gorges to the lineup, the Sabres were without several players during Thursday’s practice.
Tyson Strachan was given a maintenance day. He’s been dealing with a lower-body injury that sidelined him for four games. He’s played in the past two contests.
Nolan shared that forward Cody McCormick, who has been out since Saturday, is out week to week with a lower-body injury.
Due to the unavailability of McCormick and Torrey Mitchell – who will also be out at least a week with a lower-body injury – Nolan said that it’s likely the Sabres will call up a forward from Rochester for Saturday’s game.
The team recalled Mikhail Grigorenko for Tuesday’s game, but sent him back to the Amerks so that he could play for them on Wednesday.
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
21 Drew Stafford – 65 Brian Flynn – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 82 Marcus Foligno – 36 Patrick Kaleta
19 Cody Hodgson – 80 Chris Stewart
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
61 Andre Benoit – 41 Andrej Meszaros
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth
Did Not Practice: 6 Mike Weber (injured reserve, knee), 8 Cody McCormick (injured, lower body), 17 Torrey Mitchell (injured, lower body), 24 Tyson Strachan (maintenance day), 31 Matt Hackett (injured reserve, knee)