Marco Scandella has established himself as one of the positive thinkers in the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room. He sees the bright side in almost everything.
Losing is the exception. He despises it. He's not used to it. As it happened over and over in Buffalo, he openly called for more pride among the players.
He's seeing more as the Sabres welcome the Boston Bruins to KeyBank Center on Tuesday.
"I feel like we're earning it right now," Scandella said Monday. "I just feel like the whole team is building a foundation here, and we're headed in the right direction."
It clearly took awhile. Buffalo is on a warm streak (2-1-3) after winning only six of its opening 27 games. After the losses, a furious stare accompanied Scandella's calls for pride.
"At the time I was just really mad," the defenseman said. "You fight your whole life to play in this league. I came from a winning culture, and I think guys are starting to understand how much fun it is to win, first of all, but what it means to actually work hard."
Among the many problems in Buffalo the last few seasons was a sense of entitlement. Players had made it to the NHL, and that seemed enough.
It wasn't like that during Scandella's seven seasons in Minnesota. He doesn't want it to be like that in Buffalo.
"I think we have a really good, cohesive group with the coaches and everybody," Scandella said. "I just feel like we're building something here. Statistically it shows in the last seven, eight games that we've been playing a lot better.
"Everything is up. Everyone is just having more success. Everyone gets more individual success when the team plays better and the team has success. I think we're starting to understand that as a group, and it's huge."
Fans had hoped the players understood it already. Losing supposedly taught the Sabres their share of lessons the past few seasons, but an 8-18-7 record shows not enough learning was done. It's essentially back to Square One with a new group of mainstays.
Scandella is one of them. The 27-year-old seems eager to help build a winner during his first season with the club.
"You see the passion he has for the game, and that's probably first and foremost," fellow defenseman Josh Gorges said. "When he comes out on the ice, he's there to compete. He has a little bit of sandpaper to his game. He likes the fire.
"He's a great guy that kind of just fit in right away, a guy you want to hang around with in the room."
When the Sabres acquired Scandella from Minnesota in June, the plan was to increase his workload immensely. They've followed through.
After skating 18:20 per night last year, Scandella is averaging 23:41 this year. That trails only top-pair defense partner Rasmus Ristolainen (26:55). Scandella is on the ice in all situations, averaging 2:49 of penalty-kill time (he had 1:40 last year) and 1:35 of power-play work (just 16 seconds last season).
"He's doing a great job," coach Phil Housley said. "He's playing on the power play, penalty kill, end of periods, at the end of games whether we're down or up.
"One thing I really like about Marco is his attitude and his energy. Every day he brings it, and it's infectious to our team."
With seven assists in 33 games, Scandella has nearly reached last year's total of nine. He has 62 shots compared to 88 last season, but none have found the net. Jake McCabe is the only Buffalo defenseman to score, and his two goals have come in the last five games.
"I wish we would have more goals and more offensive contributions from our defense," Housley said. "I think it's coming. … I'd definitely like to continue working with the D getting their shots through, finding lanes and rewarding the forwards that are going there."
Scandella likes that the whole team is seeing rewards for its work. There certainly have been lackluster moments during the last six games, but there have also been signs that Buffalo deserved to pick up seven of a possible 12 points. Scandella has points in two of the last four.
"I've been super happy personally," he said. "Now that we have our group together and are practicing well, I feel like we're going in the right direction and seeing what kind of team we could be."
Story topics: Marco Scandella