ST. PAUL, Minn. -- There was an Old Home Days feel around the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room today in XCel Energy Center. The Sabres' game against the Minnesota Wild is the first game back in town for former Wild standouts Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville, as well as the first game as a head coach in his hometown for first-year Buffalo bench boss Phil Housley.
"It's always great coming back to Minnesota, where I was born and raised," Housley said. "I have a lot of family and friends here and being a first-time head coach and coaching against the Wild, it's special. But it's business as usual. We come and get prepared and get ready for the game."
"It's going to be fun. It still feels like home so I'm pretty excited about it," Scandella said. "Honestly, it didn't even feel that weird. It was just nice being back. I want to play hard, I want to win. It's going to be a fun game, really exciting to play my old teammates so I'm pumped about it."
Scandella, the Wild's second-round pick in 2008, played 373 games for them from 2010-17. Pominville played 327 games for Minnesota from the time he was acquired from the Sabres in 2013 through the end of last season.
Both of them went to postseason with the Wild for the last five seasons but Minnesota won just two series in that span, a seven-game showdown with Colorado in 2014 and a six-gamer vs. St. Louis in 2015. The Wild were eliminated by Chicago in three straight years (2013-15) and the Blackhawks went on to win the Stanley Cup in two of those.
"Every year it felt like we really had a chance," Pominville said. "Unfortunately we ran into Chicago in three of those years and didn't get past them."
Housley, a South St. Paul native who was drafted out of the high school ranks by the Sabres in 1982, has a giant likeness of himself on the concourse here as a former Minnesota star. It's alongside longtime ex-Buffalo defenseman Mike Ramsey and former North Stars center and U.S. Olympian Neil Broten.
"I'm just proud in general, being born and raised here, finding my way through high school and to the NHL," Housley said. "It's a little bit ironic that I started my career with Buffalo and I get my first head coaching job with Buffalo. It's great to come back here. The Buffalo Sabres are a great organization and we're just trying to represent it the best way I can."