By Mike Harrington
Had a good phone chat this afternoon with new Sabres forward Steve Ott, who will making his way to Buffalo from Windsor, Ont., in the next day or two for his first training camp here.
The rugged Ott was acquired over the summer from Dallas for Derek Roy and is expected to give plenty of bite to a Buffalo roster that's badly needed some. He spent a month in town getting ready until the lockout hit, then returned to Windsor and even hosted a charity game there last month that included several of his new teammates.
There were times, he admitted, it seemed like that would be his only chance to skate with them this year.
"It's been nerve-wracking," Ott said of the wait for a new CBA that finally ended early Sunday morning. "I've wanted a chance to prove myself to my teammates and the Buffalo community and now it's finally upon us.
"I kind of stayed cautiously optimistic through the whole process. You got excited a couple times and then the wheels fell off and you had to wait some more and hope there was a breakthrough. I'm just completely excited to get back on the ice and be in Buffalo as soon as possible."
Ott acknowledged there will be unique challenges to a one-week training camp with no exhibition games followed by a short season of 48-50 games.
"It does become a complete sprint," he said. "Getting off to a big start is going to be extremely key, grabbing those quick early points. To be a playoff team is the ultimate goal and to have a chance at the dance is the issue."
Ott said he had just received an email from the Players' Association about a conference call to explain the deal that's expected to be held later today. That's when the players will get confirmation of the widely-reported facets of the deal and learn the league's latest plans for a season many had to wonder would ever happen.
"I've tried to stay in the best shape possible. Guys are pretty professional," he said. "We all wanted this day to come. Everybody ramped up the last two weeks to prepare for a season, knowing it was going to happen or it was going to be ended. You want to prepare like it would happen."