The Buffalo Sabres have struggled mightily to begin this season, and the road won't get any easier as they play the Colorado Avalanche tonight at the First Niagara Center.
The Sabres (1-7-1) will need to slow down the high-powered offense that Colorado (6-1-0) can bring, and head coach Ron Rolston knows it won't be easy.
"They've got good team speed. That's probably the biggest challenge," Rolston said after the morning skate today. "They've got good depth up front, good team speed and their strong up the middle."
Buffalo's main focus will be to get a good start. The Sabres haven't held a lead during a game all season, as their only win came in a shootout, in which they never led until the end of the shootout. Rolston says that scoring the first goal will be crucial.
"That's a big thing, obviously," Rolston said. "To have a good start for us, but, again, it goes back to just creating the energy that we need for that to happen."
The Sabres have had a tough time offensively across the board. They have been shutout twice in nine games, and their passing has been atrocious. Tyler Myers hopes the team can get back on track tonight against a hot Avalanche squad.
"A lot of this game is confidence for every guy," Myers said. "I just think it gets back to not worrying about what the other team is doing, or what other people think. Just go out there and play your game. Play the game that got you here. Don't worry about any outside pressure. Don't look at our record right now. We just have to go out there and battle. Be hard on pucks, focus on the little things."
The Sabres are coming off of arguably their worst game of the season, a 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, in which the team looked highly outmatched. Myers says that the team needs to get back to its system, rather than attempting an individual approach.
"I think if we start playing within our system, that in itself will help us out a lot," Myers said. "We have to execute. We have to be much better with our execution in our system. We haven't been good enough with that. We're just going to have to play our system the way it's meant to be played. We can't have guys jumping out of position, and trying to do too much. I know I've been a victim in the past of trying to force it, and I think just for each and every guy, including myself, the focus of doing your job and supporting each other is all we need to do right now."
Despite Buffalo and Colorado being polar opposites right now, the Sabres may have a slight advantage in knowing its opponent. Buffalo's assistant coach Joe Sacco was the head coach in Colorado last season. Rolston expects Sacco's knowledge of the tendencies of players in Colorado can help Buffalo compete tonight.
"He knows the players and their tendencies," Rolston said. "They have a different system, in the way they're playing, so that'll change. But he certainly has a feel for what each player can do and where their gifts are and where they have advantages. So it'll be a help for sure."
Some good news on the injury front is Zemgus Girgensons is ready to return, just days after taking a shot to the face while attempting to screen the goaltender against Minnesota. Girgensons said that his injury healed quick, and Rolston confirmed that he is ready to go.
Some questions remain on defense tonight as well. Rolston hinted that he may dress seven defensemen, and also said that Nikita Zadorov could make his NHL debut tonight. However, if he should dress, the Sabres will be required to make a move to clear a roster spot for Zadorov.
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