After arriving for physicals and meetings Thursday, the Sabres will take the ice for the first time Friday. Here are Five Things to Watch as Buffalo prepares for the 2017-18 season.
1. Who will skate alongside Jack Eichel?
Sam Reinhart has been Eichel's right-hand man. Heck, they even rode a tandem bicycle to the arena Thursday. (Really, they did.)
Rolling into training camp like...
— NHL (@NHL) September 14, 2017
But coach Phil Housley said he'll try Reinhart at center, which opens up a spot on Eichel's right wing. Since there wasn't a consistent left winger last season, it appears both positions are up for grabs.
2. Rasmus Ristolainen's new partner is …
The Sabres added three defensemen to the organization: Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu and Victor Antipin. It's expected Scandella will slide next to Ristolainen. He'll relish the opportunity after being stuck low on Minnesota's crowded depth chart, but he'll have to earn it amid increased opportunity.
3. Who will be the new captain?
With Brian Gionta unsigned, the Sabres need to sew the "C" on someone's jersey. Ryan O'Reilly and Eichel have the most support among fans. Kyle Okposo might get the most support in the dressing room.
Housley will wait until he sees the guys on the ice to decide.
"We're not in a hurry to name a team captain," the coach said. "Certainly, we're going to have a leadership group. Who are those guys? We don't know yet, and that'll be part of the evaluation process in training camp."
4. Can any young prospects make the team?
Defenseman Brendan Guhle was an absolute stud during the Sabres' Prospects Challenge. Justin Bailey and Hudson Fasching had dominant moments at forward. Right wing Nick Baptiste and left wing Alex Nylander took positive strides during the summer.
Can they force their way into the starting lineup?
5. Will everyone stay healthy?
Essentially, the Sabres' season ended before it got started last year. Eichel went down on the eve of the opener. O'Reilly suffered an abdominal strain that lingered.
Every team has to overcome injuries at some point, but Buffalo wants to make it at least three weeks without the sky caving in.