After a three-game homestand in which they went 0-2-1, the Buffalo Sabres are looking forward to going on the road. Four of their next five games are away from First Niagara Center.
“Sometimes, you go on the road and it’s good for you when you’re in a little bit of a funk,” forward Matt Moulson said after practice Friday at First Niagara Center. “You can play a lot simpler. There’s no one to impress on the road and you can concentrate on just grinding out wins. We’ll approach it like that, play a simple game and get wins.”
The first game of the road trip takes the Sabres to Columbus, where they’ll take on the red-hot Blue Jackets on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets are currently riding an eight-game winning streak.
“They’ve been great of late,” Sabres center Cody Hodgson said. “They’ve got a lot of firepower and just the way they play the game is fast. We have to eliminate that.”
The Sabres have scored three goals in each of the past five games, but are only 0-3-2 in that span. While the offense has come around, there have been lapses in the defensive zone that have cost the team points. The players and coaching staff are working to find that proper balance of offense and defense.
“It just comes back to working as a five-man unit,” defenseman Jamie McBain said. “I think we’ve kind of gotten away from that a little bit, whether it’s our net-front coverage or sorting things out -- the teams lately have had very active D – so trying to sort things out down low. But I think it just comes back to us working as a five-man unit and getting the puck up the ice together.”
After the game in Columbus, the Sabres travel to Pittsburgh for a Monday night meeting with the Penguins. They’re back at home against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday before heading out West for a pair of games against the Phoenix Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche.
Tyler Ennis and Mark Pysyk were absent from practice.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said Ennis was a “little banged up” from the game Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes and was given Friday off as a maintenance day. He’s expected to play Saturday night in Columbus.
As for Pysyk, the team announced after practice that he had been assigned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. Nolan has said that they would like Pysyk to play in the AHL during the Olympic break.
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel has been called up from the Amerks.
The Sabres spent the first half of practice focusing on their passing. The coaching staff put an emphasis on crisp outlets in the early drills.
Since the schedule allowed for the team to put in a full practice, Nolan wanted to take that time to get back to basics.
“If you look at golfers, they go to driving ranges; baseball players go to batting cages; basketball players go to free throw lines; in hockey, we don’t do the most fundamental thing that we should be able to do on a natural instant, which is pass the puck,” he said. “Every once in a while, you have to go back to school and just do the basic stuff. Today was one of those days.”
26 Matt Moulson – 17 Linus Omark – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 19 Cody Hodgson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
82 Marcus Foligno – 84 Philip Varone – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 24 Zenon Konopka – 37 Matt Ellis – 23 Ville Leino
Red Non-Contact: 8 Cody McCormick
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 52 Alexander Sulzer
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 4 Jamie McBain
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth