Zach Bogosian said he hasn’t felt this good in a while. The summer had been good to the 25-year-old defenseman who spent time taking care of a lower body injury he suffered in last season’s penultimate game. He once again committed himself to his off-season training program to put himself in the best possible position entering Buffalo Sabres training camp.
There was another big thing that happened to Bogosian this summer. He took on a new role: Dad.
In May his wife, Bianca, gave birth to their daughter, Mila. And all those cliches about being a parent and changing your life rang true.
“It does change your life, obviously for the good,” Bogosian said in KeyBank Center on Tuesday morning. “It was the best day of my life when she was born. It’s been a fun last four-and-a-half months. “Everything that you read about or heard about being a parent – it’s challenging, it’s fun, it’s awesome. You don’t get much sleep but it’s still awesome. It’s been a great summer. Fortunately we had her in May and I had the summer to spend with her. Now that hockey is back up it stinks I won’t be around her as much, but that’s the way it is. It comes with the territory.”
That time away with his daughter wasn’t just precious family time. It provided a much-needed break from the job of being a hockey player, from the grind that can mentally destroy players.
“I think a big thing a lot of people don’t realize is mentally just getting away from the rink is a big thing,” Bogosian said. “I think a lot of people want us and everyone to be hockey-hockey-hockey 24-7 and that’s not the way it works. It’s nice to get a little bit of a break and then when you’re away from the game long enough you miss it so much, August rolls around and you’re chomping at the bit to get back. That’s the way it works and I had a good summer of that.”
Ready to return to hockey, Bogosian is looking for more improvement from last year – more leadership, more chemistry with defensive partner Jake McCabe and more offensive production.
Bogosian had a tough start to the season but found his groove, netting 16 of his 24 points after the All-Star Game. He finished with seven goals, three on the power play.
His expectations for his first preseason game focused on “just trying to dust the rust off” but coach Dan Bylsma has seen Bogosian already playing with pace.
“He’s skating great,” Bylsma said. “He’s been a leader for us in the first three days of camp and how we want to play, the pace which we want to play and that’s what we’ve seen so far. Even in morning skate he’s excited about the opportunity to get on the ice and play a game here.”
Has Bylsma noticed any change in Bogosian, the new dad?
“We talk a lot about the sleep you need to have success and making sure you’re getting sleep and right now he’s probably on the other end of that and still doing well,” Bylsma said.
Sleep hasn’t been that difficult to come by, Bogosian said. Sure, his household is a bit livelier now, with his wife, baby and two dogs who are vying for attention, but the perspective and balance it brings has been an immeasurable bit of grace.
“It definitely puts life in a different perspective when you have a kid,” Bogosian said. “It maybe motivates you a little more. You know that you’re taking care of another human being and that gives me motivation to play as long as I can and to have her experience the things that I’ve experienced.
“You come home from the rink and you smile every day. I love being a dad.”
Jack Eichel was back on the KeyBank Center ice Tuesday afternoon. The center has returned from playing with Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. Eichel skated with just a few of his teammates and did not speak to the media. He will return to full practice sessions at training camp on Wednesday.
There is competition for both a forward and defense spot on the Sabres roster. For those already on the roster, there is competition within for spots on top lines, top pairings and various other roles. Playing back-to-back preseason games allows head coach Dan Bylsma to give plenty of playing time and opportunities for players to make their cases in a game situation.
“Our team, minus the guys at the World Cup, is split pretty evenly between the first two games,” Bylsma said. “It’s an opportunity for the players in the 23-35 range of our depth chart to have a good chance to play a game and get an opportunity these first two games. We saw Game One yesterday at Penn State and this is the other half of the guys who get the opportunity to play here tonight. … It’s kind of split evenly and we’re just trying to put in how we want to play and at the same time give guys opportunities to play in an exhibition game.”
The line combinations and defensive pairings to start Tuesday’s game:
Forwards: Tyler Ennis-Zemgus Girgensons-Kyle Okposo; Nic Deslauriers-Derek Grant-Matt Moulson; Nicholas Baptiste-Dan Catenacci-Eric Cornel; Evan Rodriguez-Jean Dupuy-Hudson Fasching.
Defense: Jake McCabe-Zach Bogosian; Brady Austin-Cody Franson; Mac Bennett-Erik Burgdoerfer.