By Mike Harrington
The Sabres made a quick exit after practice today in First NIagara Center, trying to get out of town on their charter to Raleigh for Thursday night's game against the Carolina Hurricanes (5 p.m. update: the plane has landed safely in Raleigh)
Practice was shorter than planned as interim coach Ted Nolan didn't like the effort, made the players do wind sprints (the old "bag skate" in hockey terms) and then walked off the ice, leaving them to discuss it all on their own.
"I don’t really care what position you’re in or what your skill set is or anything like that. What I care about is the work that you put in and the effort that you put in," Nolan said. "We didn’t put the effort in at the beginning of practice and habits are easy to form, good or bad. We have to avoid those bad habits and get them out early. We’re still professional people here. We’ve still got a season to go, too. Attention to detail, that’s our No. 1 priority."
One of the player who has definitely figured it out of late is Stafford, who played his 500th NHL game last night. Stafford had Buffalo's only goal in its otherwise dreary 4-1 win over Nashville and has eight goals and 14 points in his last 15 games.
With Steve Ott gone to St. Louis, Stafford has also regained the alternate captain 'A' that Ron Rolston took away from him at the start of the season. The Sabres will not be naming a replacement captain the rest of the year.
"We need everyone going. We can't have any passengers," Stafford told me after last night's game. "Forget where we are in the standings. We're playing for pride. We're playing to not be embarrassed out there. We're not going to quick or mail it in. Our fans don't deserve that. We're building for the future here and we have to establish the right way to do things."
Tomorrow's game opens a brutal stretch that sees Buffalo finish the season with 12 of its final 17 games on the road. For more on Stafford's late-season burst, be sure to read my story in Thursday's editions of The News.