BOSTON – Dan Bylsma remembers the practice rinks he visited as an NHL player. They were dark, dingy and cramped.
The Sabres certainly didn’t skate in one of those places Sunday.
“When you get in the elevator and there’s marble, and you go upstairs and you feel like you’re getting out of a fancy hotel, it doesn’t give you the feeling of a practice rink,” the Buffalo coach said in Warrior Ice Arena, the Boston Bruins’ sparkling new practice facility.
The building opened in September as part of a project financed by New Balance, a sneaker and sports apparel company that is headquartered next door. While New Balance built the place, it essentially belongs to the Bruins. Banners commemorating their Stanley Cup championships and retired jerseys hang from the ceiling. The team logo is centered on the all-window wall that brings in the sun as cars zip past on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Sabres skating Bruins' new facility not far from Harvard. It's sweet. pic.twitter.com/hP9zFfuZal
— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) November 6, 2016
The Bruins previously practiced 20 miles north of Boston, but the new place keeps them in the city. Located near Harvard University, it’s just six miles from TD Garden, where the Bruins will host the Sabres on Monday night. The Bruins hold their morning skates in Warrior Ice Arena, and the Sabres are believed to be the first NHL team to use the rink other than the home boys.
“It’s pretty big for this city to have something like this for this team,” said Sabres captain and former Boston College star Brian Gionta. “Obviously, playing in Boston and being in school here, I have fond memories of this city. I think it’s pretty cool where it is and what it means to the Bruins.”
Warrior Ice Arena is the latest in a growing trend of high-class practice facilities. The Sabres have their own with HarborCenter.
“The facilities are being put in place for us to be at our best,” Gionta said. “That’s the biggest thing. Everything’s top notch. Everything’s there for you, and you can see it here.”
The Sabres practiced without left wing Tyler Ennis and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. Bylsma said both had maintenance days. Does he expect them to play Monday?
“I expect them to play well,” Bylsma said.
The Sabres did not bring any extra forwards or defensemen on the two-game road trip. If either player can’t dress, the Sabres will need to summon someone from Rochester.
William Carrier felt good about his NHL debut in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Ottawa. The left winger started the play that led to Sam Reinhart’s winning goal, sidestepping a check at the blue line to carry the puck into the zone.
“Plus-1, I’ll take that,” said Carrier, who led the Amerks last season at plus-14. “That’s the kind of player I want to be out there. I was on the ice for the winning goal, so that’s fun.”
The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder led the Sabres with four hits. He took two shots and blocked one in 6:26 of ice time. He said his instructions were to play fast and physical, so he did.
“That’s all they want me to do,” Carrier said. “It’s a simple role, so I kind of like it. It keeps my brain not working too much. Put the puck in the corner, hit some guys, get the puck back and make some plays.”
The Sabres are the only team in the NHL to not have a goal from a defenseman. The blue-liners have picked up assists, led by Rasmus Ristolainen with a team-high eight, but no one has lit the lamp.
“We’ve talked about this the last couple games is getting more involved in the offense, getting our defense a part of the five-man offense,” Bylsma said. “We need to do a better job from our defense of becoming part of that five-man – low to high, getting shots through, finding pucks to the net-front area.”
Left wing Marcus Foligno got a chuckle out of seeing former teammate Ryan Miller get ejected Saturday night for being the third man into a fight. The Vancouver goaltender refused to stand idly as rookie Troy Stecher got pummeled by Toronto’s Matt Martin, so Miller threw down his glove and blocker and joined the fray.
BAH GAWD THAT'S RYAN MILLER'S MUSIC pic.twitter.com/o41g4YoUKJ
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) November 6, 2016
“That’s two fights against Toronto,” said Foligno, who recalled Miller participating in a preseason line brawl between the Sabres and Maple Leafs in 2013. “Good for him sticking up for a teammate. I think that’s the kind of goalie he was here, a good character guy.
“You just don’t want to see him fight all the time like that.”