The Sabres now know what their roles are and they're embracing them

November 15, 2018 - 2:36 pm
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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - Part of the Sabres success this season has been well defined roles and each player understanding what he needs to do. Players have been telling me how they’ve embraced the job that’s been entrusted in them and Jake McCabe said, “Everyone is pulling the rope in the same direction this year and the biggest thing is we’ve seen success early on, especially when we do play the right way and guys are understanding what it takes to win in this league.

Zemgus Girgensons has taken on the role of checker and along with Johan Larsson, helped to shut down Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Girgensons said, “Everyone knows their role, everyone agrees with it and they just play the game the way they have to, so the team needs that, the guys to understand what their job is and it makes it easier for everyone to play.”

Phil Housley has better players and faster players this season. He thinks, “For me there’s just more of a buy-in and a belief and when you have early success, it helps build that belief and confidence.

“We’ve come back in games which helped with the belief part, but we’ve shown some resiliency and we haven’t had that in the past.”

Another thing I've noticed is the players are having fun. They seem to be enjoying practice and even though we’re not in the room for a long time, they are just sitting together talking and enjoying being there. McCabe said, “For sure, not to bring up last year, but Factor (Ryan O’Reilly) got a lot of heat for his comments at the end of the year, but it’s not fun coming to the rink when you’re losing, especially year after year and it’s draining and even like today, we didn’t skate yesterday so I was excited to come to the rink and get back to work with these guys. We have such a great group of guys in this room and it’s fun to go to war with them every day.”

Patrik Berglund centered Vladimir Sobotka and Jason Pominville during Thursday’s practice. Evan Rodrigues stood around and did nothing for the first 20 minutes of practice, so it appears he will sit. Phil Housley said, “We’re just making changes, I don’t think we were at our best against Tampa, but I like what Patrik brings and he’s going to get an opportunity.”

The Sabres are currently sixth in the NHL with a .611 point percentage. On Friday, they play third place Winnipeg and then on Saturday, it’s fourth place Minnesota. They wrap up the road trip in Pittsburgh and Housley said, “It’s a great challenge for our group, we’re playing some great hockey teams, so we just control what we can control. If we’re on top of our game, we can have success, but it’s going to take our best game.”

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