The Sabres' preseason is over. The biggest takeaway from the six games?
"We've got a long way to go, obviously," Phil Housley said Friday night.
The coach knew he couldn't just walk in, snap his fingers and have all of Buffalo's players immediately grasp his new system. Odds are good they won't know everything when the regular season starts Thursday.
"I think that group recognizes it, and that's the first thing," Housley said after a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders. "I appreciate the work they've put up to this point in training camp. They've brought a lot of energy. They've worked very hard.
"We've got to translate that into the game, and it's a process."
A lackluster performance in KeyBank Center dropped the Sabres to 1-4-1 during the exhibitions. Records don't matter in the preseason, but effort does. The Sabres have work to do.
"Right from the start it wasn't good enough," center Sam Reinhart said. "We've got to demand more. We've got to expect more of this group. We're going to take a day to forget about it and move on, but we've got to be ready for Thursday."
One of Housley's objectives is getting the Sabres ready from the drop of the puck. They started slow again, something that can't happen when Montreal visits for the opener.
"Our starts in general in the preseason haven't been very good," Housley said. "I remember the one game in Penn State where we came out and we were ready, so we have to address that. It's all about preparation.
"Those things are going to change. They have to."
Before the Sabres focus on the Canadiens, they have to determine who's on the team. The Sabres and the rest of the NHL must submit their opening-night rosters by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Buffalo has cuts to make to get to the league maximum of 23 players.
The Sabres have 31 players on their roster, including the injured group of defenseman Jake McCabe and forwards Alex Nylander, Evan Rodrigues and Sean Malone. Their placement on injured reserve would leave Buffalo with 27 players, four over the limit.
Defenseman Zach Bogosian left Friday's game early in the third period, but the severity of his injury wasn't known.
Assuming Bogosian's injury is minor, the Sabres have 15 healthy forwards, 10 defensemen and two goaltenders. Teams typically keep 13 forwards and seven defensemen, though there's room for one more at one of the positions.
The roster locks at forward are Jack Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane, Jason Pominville, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons, Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Nolan. Matt Moulson and Johan Larsson are highly probable, while Jacob Josefson is likely to make it. That leaves Seth Griffith, Justin Bailey and Nicolas Deslauriers on the bubble for the final spot (or two).
Griffith and Deslauriers would need to clear waivers to go to Rochester while Bailey would not. Griffith had an impressive showing against the Islanders, spending the third period on a line with Eichel and Kane.
"Seth Griffith was one of our best forwards," Housley said. "He created a lot, was on the forecheck, had some opportunities still to shoot the puck in the second, but I really liked his game. He brought the speed element."
The locks on defense are Rasmus Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu, Bogosian and Victor Antipin. Until McCabe returns, that leaves Josh Gorges, Matt Tennyson, Justin Falk and Taylor Fedun angling for two spots. All would require waivers to be demoted.
Defenseman Cody Goloubef remains with the team on a professional tryout.
Housley planned to watch video of the game Friday night and meet with his coaches Saturday. They'll analyze practices and the preseason to determine who stays and who goes.
"We've got a good, young group," Nolan said after his debut. "We've just got to clean up a few things and work on some details, but these guys are skilled and I think they'll figure it out."