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Phil Housley ready to coach, build relationships with Sabres' players

Phil Housley didn’t have time to get his wife an anniversary card. He got a job instead.

After accepting the coaching position with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, Housley headed to meet his wife, Karin. It’s their 32nd anniversary, and she had cards ready. He just had the good news.

“I’m just excited to be a part of this organization and see the change that has happened from when I played to now,” Housley said in KeyBank Center. “It’s an exciting time, and it’s an exciting time for me to be able to work with incredible people here.”

General Manager Jason Botterill and owner Terry Pegula joined the 18th coach in team history for the introductory news conference.

“Finding the right person to lead our players on the ice has always been the main priority,” Botterill said. “After reviewing some potential candidates, I clearly feel we have the right man here.”

Pegula had seats in the reds in Memorial Auditorium when Housley played for the Sabres in the 1980s. Pegula sees a much different man in the 53-year-old Housley than the 18-year-old kid who took the NHL by storm.

“He has humbled himself by having the career he had in the National Hockey League and then coaching high school hockey,” Pegula said. “He’s learned his trade. He started at the bottom humbly. He didn’t play humble, but he started his coaching career in that kind of fashion.”

Housley spent the past four seasons as Nashville’s assistant coach. He also worked for Stillwater High School in Minnesota and for USA Hockey. This is his first top job in the NHL.

Sabres hire Phil Housley as coach, bring back piece of history

“I just feel I’m ready,” Housley said. “I knew this organization before, and I’m really excited for that challenge to be the head coach of a hockey team.

“I describe myself as intense, patient, competitive, willing to win, respect, credible. Those are some of the words that come to mind, but you learn from your experiences.”

Communication was an issue under former coach Dan Bylsma, and Housley is eager to connect with the players. The Hockey Hall of Famer has instant respect, but he knows he has to keep it.

Mike Harrington's Hot Read: Housley brings credibility, players have to respond

“It’s about creating relationships with your players,” Housley said. “They’ve got to know where you stand, and you’ve got to know where they stand. I think it’s a culture thing, too. You’ve got to build the foundation, set the standards, and I think when you start building something, they can build off that and it’s a good experience.”

In other news:

*Botterill said Kyle Okposo is much improved and healthy after a late-season medical scare that landed the right winger in the hospital.

*The GM plans to talk to goaltending prospect Cal Petersen next week. Botterill sees an ideal fit for Petersen in Buffalo, but he understands the goaltender could use the collective bargaining agreement to his advantage and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the month.

Cal Petersen's rep mum on goalie's plans for Sabres, NHL

*The Sabres’ assistant coaches, Terry Murray, Bob Woods and Tom Ward, have permission to interview with other teams. Housley will sit with them to see if there’s a fit.

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