Sabres prepare for Winter Classic ahead of New Year’s Day

Sabres prepare for Winter Classic ahead of New Year’s Day

QUEENS, N.Y .(WIVB) – A common theme on the eve of the New Year and the 10th anniversary of the Winter Classic was players and coaches re-living their childhoods while skating outdoors on the rink at Citi Field.

“Bring it back to my childhood growing up in Minnesota, in South Saint Paul we had 10 outdoor rinks to choose from and every day your mom would come out and try to get you back in the house,” Head Coach Phil Housley said.

“I was lucky my dad loved the game as well and he’d get me out of school on Fridays when I was little and we’d go play pond hockey,” added Jack Eichel.  “You make so many memories just by being out there. That’s where the game started and the roots of the great game we play are. It’s pretty amazing how much better you can get just by being on the ice with skates, a stick and a puck.”

While the game will be fun for both the Sabres and Rangers, the elements will play a factor on New Year’s Day, especially the glare from the sun off the ice.

“That was kind of weird. A couple times I had the puck I came up and couldn’t see,” Ryan O’Reilly said after practice.  “Hopefully the sun gets down, might have to delay it, but it’ll be difficult for sure.”

“Adapt as you go. I don’t know what to expect,” Eichel added.  “I think the beginning of  the game will be a simple one and just try to figure out what’s working and what’s now.”

“I hope the wind is at our backs for three periods,” joked Housley.  “I know that’s not going to be the game. We’re going to put a good game plan together. Just being in this game and what it’s all about — we’ll be ready to go.”

For the Sabres 2018 marks a fresh start for the club which has just 10 wins through December — their fewest since the 2002-2003 season.  After a strong effort against the Islanders (an OT loss) and comeback win over the Devils on Friday, Buffalo is hoping the NHL’s marquee event serves as a springboard for a strong second half to the season.

“You know I think that the last few games we’ve been a more consistent team, shift in and shift out,” Eichel said of the Sabres.  “We’ve figured out what’s made us successful and we’re putting ourselves in a position to win and I think we’re all buying in a little bit better now. We’re all starting to come together.”

Since being shutout in three consecutive games at the end of November and into December, the Sabres have battled and earned points of eight of the final 12 games of their 2017 slate.

“Another opportunity to win another game and use this momentum to find oursleves even more,” O’Reilly added.  “The hype around the game is cool to be a part of but we’re trying to claw our way back and it starts with this game here now.”

“Any team is lucky to be a part of something like this,” said Robin Lehner who will start in net opposite of Henrik Lunqvist.  “I think we’ve been playing better. It’s a good opportunity for us on a big stage, get a win and keep the momentum going.”

Puckdrop for the Winter Classic is set for 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day.

Source: Buffalo New York’s Latest News
Sabres prepare for Winter Classic ahead of New Year’s Day

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