Dan Lambert wants to see what Buffalo’s youngsters can do on the ice. That’s the main point of the Sabres’ prospect challenge.
But the Rochester Americans’ new coach has plenty of other things to do this weekend. He wants to see who talks in the dressing room. He wants to see who responds when it matters. He hopes to see everyone take things seriously.
After all, most of the guys playing in HarborCenter will follow Lambert to Rochester.
As many as 18 of the 24 players skating in Buffalo’s prospect tournament will play for the Amerks this year. It will be Lambert’s first season in charge of the minor-league club, so Saturday’s game against New Jersey and Monday’s meeting with Boston are giving him a much-need head start on getting to know the guys.
“The biggest thing is the relationships,” Lambert said. “I think it’s really important to get to know these young men, see what makes them tick, see what they like, dislike. It is very crucial for us down in Rochester to get the most out of these guys.”
Lambert ran the Sabres’ development camp in July, so the initial introductions are out of the way. This weekend is about showing the players what he expects.
“You’re just trying to instill a little bit of the ‘Sabre hockey’ that we talk about and give them a taste of what it looks like and what it feels like,” Lambert said. “What we’re trying to do is help their details and their habits in the game. What we’re trying to teach them, they can bring back to wherever they’re playing and hopefully do a job there.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he added, “but we are trying to incorporate how we want to play both in Buffalo and Rochester.”
The players are eager to make a positive impression in Buffalo with the knowledge it will carry over to the next stop.
“I want to prove myself and show them who I am,” forward Daniel Muzito-Bagenda said. “I’m just going to go hard every day, develop, try to make myself a name here.”
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Austin Osmanski couldn’t wait to see what he looked like in a Sabres uniform. He wasn’t alone.
The East Aurora native had tickets for 50 friends and relatives Saturday night against the Devils, and more people showed up on their own. It continued the whirlwind run Osmanski has enjoyed since Buffalo drafted the 18-year-old in the seventh round in June.
“Right after the draft, it was a completely different lifestyle,” said the defenseman for Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League. “You see people that you know and people that you don’t know, and they know you. It’s kind of died down now being back in Mississauga. It’s a normal-person status and stuff like that.”
Osmanski started on the blue line alongside Brycen Martin, a third-round pick from 2014. All seven of Buffalo’s defensemen are left-handed shots, which has forced Osmanski to make adjustments.
“We’ve had to practice both sides, practice shooting from the right side, which I haven’t done really ever,” he said. “It’s going to be different, for sure.”
It was different pulling on the uniform, too.
“I’ve been here once before at development camp, and this is just another step,” Osmanski said.
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The Sabres’ goaltenders for the tournament are Linus Ullmark and Jason Kasdorf. Ullmark got the call in Game One. Odds are good they’ll be the tandem in Rochester, too.
“Ullmark basically was No. 1 there last season,” Lambert said. “If he’s down there, I’d like to think that it’s going to be his job to lose – but I don’t want to say that because you never know. Kasdorf is also a prospect, and if he steps in and stands on his head it might be hard to keep him out of the net.”