Share this article

print logo

Sabres keep their focus on games as clock ticks

Matt Moulson pulled on his baseball cap and prepared to address the small gathering of cameras and reporters.

“Same questions, ninth day in a row,” he quipped.

Same questions. Same answers.

Only this time could be the last time for those questions and answers in Buffalo.

Tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks in First Niagara Center may be the last one in Buffalo for any number of Sabres. The team will be on the road after that, including in Florida next Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline.

Among the names prominent in trade rumors are Moulson, Steve Ott and Ryan Miller.

“Like I’ve said before, I just go out and play hockey,” Moulson said. “That’s what I’m paid to do so that’s what I’ll be doing. … It comes with the territory. You’re in the last year of your contract, like I am, obviously this team isn’t going to make the playoffs and they have to get assets. It’s business decisions. I understand that. Myself and my family, we’re prepared if something like that happens but we just take it day by day.”

Ott, who has been vocal in his desire to stay in Buffalo, was a bit more exasperated when questioned about the possibility that this could be his last game as a Sabre.

For the captain, the talk about the trade deadline is passé, and he feels it does an injustice to his teammates.

“You know what, I’m here to control what I can control. I’ve answered enough questions. Nothing’s going to change,” Ott said. “It’s taking justice away from my teammates that are trying to have a strong campaign the rest of the way. My focus is going to be on my own hockey, my own game and leading this team. That’s what I’m here to do and that’s what I’m going to do the rest of the way here.”

Over the next six days, the future of the Sabres roster will begin to take shape.

But Ott, Moulson and the rest of the team are focused on the situation in front of them. That means trying to put together a three-game winning streak as they host the Sharks. So bring on your trade rumors on social media or the traditional media. The Sabres feel they have a more important job to do.

“That’s the beauty of our team. We have some pretty good leadership in that room,” coach Ted Nolan said. “And they are the guys who are probably on the front pages about those rumors. Matty Moulson, he’s a quiet leader on our team and he’s doing a great job. Steve Ott is doing a great job for us. You see the way Ryan Miller came back from the Olympics and what he did the first game.

“All these guys maybe have excuses or reasons to say, ‘Hey it’s only a matter of time before we leave.’ No, they’re not doing that.”

The focus now for Miller is his start tonight in what is likely his last game in Buffalo as a Sabre.

Nolan said the decision on which goaltender to start was his and that it would be “probably Miller. Miller will go.”

He started on Tuesday and stole the win for the Sabres, a 3-2 victory over Carolina in which Miller made 36 saves.

Miller tried to stay away from being too reflective after practice on Thursday, but it was inevitable. The expectation that this will be his last start in Buffalo gave him the opportunity to show his first NHL city a healthy dose of Buffalo love.

“I don’t want to close off any avenues … but with the little bit of uncertainty you don’t want to miss an opportunity to say thank you,” Miller said.

“I’d just like to reiterate I appreciate everyone here who has been a friend or a fan. You don’t do things on your own. The collective energy from the city, people have to realize how that makes a difference to us and to the players. It’s a great place to play hockey. You feel a part of something. You feel appreciated. When you give an honest effort, there’s positive feedback from everyone. That’s more than you can ask for. There are cities out there where you’re invisible and you don’t have that same support.”