Their bags are packed and the Buffalo Sabres are ready to head out to the West Coast for a three-game set in California.
Buffalo will face the Anaheim Ducks on Wedesday, the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday and then the San Jose Sharks for an afternoon game on Saturday. The Sabres find themselves in a bit of a rut heading into the trip, but they see it as a chance to build some chemistry amongst a group that really hasn’t been together all that much yet.
“No one’s happy with where we’re at but again, this a good opportunity for our team and our coaching staff to kind of get away from Buffalo here for a little bit,” Sabres defenseman Mike Weber said. “Go regroup, go be together as a team in here and battle and win on the road. Because a team that can battle and win on the road is a team that can come home and have success too.”
The teams they’ll be playing on the trip are no pushovers either and the Sabres are well aware of that. The Ducks, Kings and Sharks are a combined 13-3-2 so far this season and sit 1-2-3 in the Pacific Division.
Last season, Buffalo took six of 12 total points from the three playoff teams. However, they’ll concentrate on each game as it comes and place more of an emphasis on what they need to do in order to be successful.
“You can’t look at [the trip] as a whole. Now, it’s not necessarily who we’re playing, it’s trying to find our game – what we need to do to win games, what we need to do to compete in games,” captain Brian Gionta said. “I don’t think the focus is as much on whom we’re playing as ourselves.”
The Sabres have been shutout in back-to-back games – both at home – and they’ll try to find some offense quickly.
“We need to put our players in better positions to score some goals,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “We’ve got work harder so we’re trying to rectify that during practice and going to the net, moving the puck, shooting the puck a little more.”
Nolan hopes the better communication on the ice will lead to shorter shifts in the defensive zone and not wear out the forwards on the backcheck. Getting the puck out of the zone quicker should lead to more offensive chances and better results.
“If you’re spending too much time in your defensive zone, it’s pretty hard to score some goals. We have to tighten up doing that first and doing that is through communication,” Nolan said. “Good communication always eliminates duplication. We have too many people trying to do somebody else’s job. The effort’s there, we’re just not doing it the smart way.”
Faceoff against the Ducks is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. EST. The Tops Gamenight Pregame show begins at 10 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550).
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 80 Chris Stewart
17 Torrey Mitchell – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 21 Drew Stafford
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 65 Brian Flynn – 23 Sam Reinhart – 8 Cody McCormick
36 Patrick Kaleta (red, non-contact jersey)
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 41 Andrej Meszaros
61 Andre Benoit – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 24 Tyson Strachan
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth
Patrick Kaleta, recovering from surgery after taking a slap shot to the face on Sept. 28, is getting closer to returning and will make the trip with the team.
Nolan said that rookie Sam Reinhart, who was a healthy scratch Saturday against the Panthers, may not play against the Ducks, but will suit up at some point in California.