By Mike Harrington
Interim coach Ron Rolston had to head home to suburban Rochester Friday to get some clothes. He's learning where his office is, where his shoes are and got comfortable Saturday in his new Sabres sweatsuit. Friday at the Northtown Center, he even had to learn what door led to the coaches' office after practice. It's all part of a new job.
Rolston has plenty of adjustments to make in his new gig and wants his players to quickly make one as well -- creating a comfort zone tonight when he makes his First Niagara Center debut against the New York Islanders. The last time they were here was Tuesday's fiasco against Winnipeg that led to Lindy Ruff's firing. And that's not the only time the boos have rained down upon them from the paying customers this season.
The Sabres are 3-5-1 at home. The only NHL team with more regulation losses in their home rink is the Islanders, who are 2-6-1 at Nassau Coliseum. (Memo to Rolston: Keeping the puck out of the net in the first minute or two would be a good idea).
"We understand what home games mean in this league and what it means to our fans," Rolston said after today's optional pregame skate. That was part of our message this morning to the guys and they know it. There's a lot of pride in the room and they want to put their best foot forward tonight.
"For us, it's certainly a talking point, coming out and understanding the great fans that we have in Buffalo. They're in a situation as fans knowing we're not going to win every night but you certainly have to take a lot of pride in what your team's all about and how they're competing and the energy they play with so you can be excited about coming to watch."
It was largely status quo for Thursday's loss in Toronto. It won't be tonight. Mikhail Grigorenko is back in after sitting out three games as a healthy scratch. Andrej Sekera is likely coming back from a charley horse. John Scott and T.J. Brennan are expected to be scratched.
"I didn't want to come in right away and just throw a bunch of different things out there," Rolston said. "So we've kind of kept things in more of a theme each day instead of multi-tasking and getting five things done average. I want to make sure we're doing the things we want to focus on better."
Rolston said the positive pockets of play he sees from the team need to be much more sustained, adding "we're just not doing them long enough right now. That's part of a struggling team."
Asked to explain the whirlwind of the last four days, Rolston said he's barely had time to ponder it all
"You have to meet new people, understand where you're at," he said. "Figure out all your surrounding, your players. You're still in that phase. The one thing about this organization from ownership down,the quality of person here is outstanding. That's very helpful. Am I having fun? Yes. Is it going to be a challenge? Yes. But there's a lot of outstanding people here and that starts from the top."
Click below to hear audio of Rolston's extended session with the media today.