By John Vogl
Ron Rolston has been watching video of NHL games all season despite coaching down in Rochester, so the Sabres' interim bench boss already had a good feel for what Buffalo needs to improve.
The 3-1 loss to Toronto gave him more evidence.
"We have to play at a different pace right now," Rolston said today in Northtown Center at Amherst after his first formal practice. "We don’t put enough pressure on teams right now, just playing a little bit too slow. If you lined all the players up on the goal line across the league, it’d be a pretty close race from end to end, but a lot of teams play faster than other teams with puck movement and guys knowing what other guys are doing on the ice.
"We’ve got to make a concerted effort at doing that, just putting teams in pressure situations more than we do."
In Rolston's limited time to reflect on his debut, the thing that stood out most was Toronto's second goal. Buffalo had played a bad second period but was still in a 1-1 tie, then the Sabres made multiple mistakes to allow the Leafs to go end-to-end with only 1:56 remaining.
"What happens when you’re on the road like that, you want to be able to go into for example the third period 1-1," Rolston said. "What happens right now with our hockey team is we’re the team that blinks first when you have a staredown. In other words, if the faceoff’s in the zone and we make a mistake in execution, the next thing you know it’s a 2-1 game going into the third.
"That’s part of the reason why things aren’t going the way we want them to go is because there’s times in the game we execute for a long period of time, and then in this league if you have even a short span of a couple of shifts where you don’t execute, that can be the difference in the game. A lot of times it’s been the case here, and it was last night for us."
The Sabres will try to end a three-game losing streak Saturday when they host the New York Islanders in Rolston's home debut. Jordan Leopold likely will miss his third straight game after skipping practice with an upper-body injury, while fellow defenseman Andrej Sekera may return from a charley horse.
Ryan Miller will play in goal after taking today off to rest.
"Everyone here knows the value he has to the organization and our team," Rolston said. "I’ve known Ryan for a long time. He’s a Michigan native and I coached him way back in a summer USA regional, so I followed his career and know how talented he is and what he means to our hockey team. You saw it again last night, so we’re just monitoring that. Today was just more of a maintenance day for him to make sure he’s in the right place for tomorrow night."
taggedAndrej Sekera | Jordan Leopold | Ron Rolston | Ryan Miller