Since HarborCenter opened in 2014, the Sabres have used the downtown facility simply as an alternate practice site when KeyBank Center was unavailable due to concerts or Bandits games. That mindset appears to be changing under coach Phil Housley.
In Housley's first season as head coach, the team ran virtually all of training camp there and then practiced there Sunday morning in what was essentially its first workout of the regular season.
After spending Monday off the ice, Housley indicated he'd like to spend a lot more time in the gleaming $172 million facility the Pegulas opened nearly three years ago.
"I'd like to take advantage of HarborCenter with the two sheets of ice when we can because it's always good to do the things we're trying to do at high tempo and high pace,' Housley said. "A fresh sheet of ice does that. Mentally, the guys feel better when they feel faster and they're not on the ice 40 minutes on the same sheet where the snow can get built up."
Housley has often split practices between HarborCenter's two rinks, starting in the smaller New Era Rink before shifting halfway through the workout to the featured Key Bank Rink. The players don't have to wait for the ice to be resurfaced and simply walk quickly across a small hallway to the other rink right into their next drill.
The players dress as normal in their KeyBank Center facility and walk through the pavilion walkway to HarborCenter for practice. Many of the players are now roller skating their way back and forth with the new portable blades purchased by center Ryan O'Reilly.
Housley kept the Sabres off their skates Monday, simply opting for off-ice workouts. The team will practice Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of Thursday's season opener against Montreal. Housley was pleased with the high tempo he saw Sunday morning.
"It's a long week," he said. "I thought it was a good time to push the pace yesterday, with a little bit more compete in our practice. ... I really liked our practice yesterday. Today is more of a maintenance day with the long week. I thought it would be good to get an off-ice workout and their minds right for tomorrow and Wednesday. Certainly we'll push the pace tomorrow as we gear up for our first game."
The Sabres' captaincy remains in limbo, with speculation growing the team may follow the lead of the Toronto Maple Leafs and not have a captain this season.
"Not in the immediate future," Housley said when asked if any announcement was forthcoming. " We're still evaulating that part about who's going to wear a letter. That's something the coaches will be talking about."
Housley had no update on defenseman Zach Bogosian, other than to say he's "making progress" and still listed as day to day. Bogosian, who was injured Friday, did not practice Sunday.
Housley on the 3-1 start by the Bills under rookie head coach Sean McDermott: "I just want to congratulate Sean on a huge win in Atlanta yesterday. That's big for their ballclub. Hopefully we can jump on their backs with the enthusiasm the Bills have brought to this point. it's great to see the Bills are having success."