By John Vogl
After a whirlwind week, the Sabres are taking today off to regroup and take a breath.
Buffalo will practice Monday before hosting St. Louis on Tuesday. While there could be roster moves and lineup changes, Ted Nolan's assistants don’t expect a major system overhaul.
“Right now he just wants to try to keep things as simple as possible, not change too much early on,” Joe Sacco told The News. “That’s just going to add confusion to everything. His message has been pretty clear to the players and the rest of the other coaches. Less is more right now, just letting them go out and play.
“We have X’s and O’s and systems that are in place, but at the end of the day it’s not about that. It is about compete level. It’s about winning one-on-one battles. It’s about being engaged in the game all the time for 60 minutes. I think that’s what he’s preaching more than the tactical part of the game right now.”
A couple of changes were evident during Nolan’s first two games, a 3-1 victory over Toronto on Friday and a 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday:
*Players are being encouraged to play hockey and not be obsessed with details. The defensemen have been more aggressive in the offensive zone, and forwards have skated into position to accept long passes.
“Ted came in and basically had one-on-ones with every guy in the room,” defenseman Tyler Myers said. “One of the things he brought up was don’t be afraid to jump up as much as you can. There’s mistakes that are going to be made, and that’s part of hockey. Don’t worry about it. It was a good feeling to hear that.”
*The Sabres clogged the middle better and collapsed quicker while playing defense. (It should be noted that often comes easily against the Leafs, who have been outshot in 16 of their 20 games.)
“You give a bad player enough time, he’s going to make a good play,” Nolan said. “We have to make sure we get on top of people with the puck and back-pressure them. Get out there for 35-40 seconds, give everything you have, come back, have some rest and do it again.”
The Sabres still have a lot of work to do. They are 30th in the 30-team NHL with a 5-16-1 record. The roster remains thin on talent and experience. Losses are more likely than victories.
The Sabres worked for five of six periods over the weekend, though, which is a step up.
“The players are going to try to impress the new coach, and that’s just the way it’s always been,” Sacco said. “It’s important that we try to maintain that, and that will be the key for us. We’re still a young team. We have a young lineup in there, but I think if we can show that type of energy and that type of passion in our game night in and night out, we’ll be in more games that not. I think that’s what people want to see.”
taggedJoe Sacco | Ted Nolan