The most comfortable spot on the ice for Josh Gorges is the area within his own blue line. The 33-year-old veteran of more than 700 NHL games has built his hockey career by being a defensive defenseman.
In his last three seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Gorges has scored just three goals with 21 assists.
But even a defensive defenseman is excited about the new style coming to the Sabres blue line corps, one that emphasizes a high pace and encourages defensemen to join the offensive attack.
"I think as a player you're kind of always evolving. The game seems to always be evolving and you adapt to it and adapt with it. No difference in this," Gorges said Wednesday morning after taking extra ice time in HarborCenter with the other players who were scratches for the preseason tilt against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
"You know, I take pride playing on the defensive side and I take pride in playing penalty kill, but who doesn't like to be in the offense? Who doesn't like jumping up into the play and having your name on the score sheet every once in a while? That's fun. When you're a kid growing up, that's what you play for. You play to get points. It does add an element of fun to it and I think that's why you see all of us excited about the way we're going to play."
Gorges is one of 11 defensemen the Sabres still have on their roster in the final week of training camp. Along with returning full-timers Zach Bogosian, Jake McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen are Justin Falk and Taylor Fedun, who split time between Buffalo and Rochester last season.
Marco Scandella, acquired from Minnesota in the offseason, adds a left-handed shot along with Nathan Beaulieu, acquired from Montreal.
Also in the mix are Victor Antipin, who played in the KHL last year, Cody Goloubef, who was signed to a Professional Tryout and played 33 games with Colorado last year, and Matt Tennyson, who signed a two-year deal with the Sabres after playing in 45 games for Carolina last year.
"I mean there's lots of guys still here," Gorges said. "Guys can skate and move pucks. Guys can make that first good outlet pass but then get up the ice as well and help create on the offensive side of things."
While offense from the blue line has been a big buzz around camp, Gorges noted that it's more of a tweak to his role as a defender rather than a complete overhaul.
"It's nothing outrageous. No one's asking me, especially me, or any of the D to get the puck, go coast-to-coast, beat guys one-on-one," Gorges said. "It doesn't turn into an individual game. I think it's just about getting your feet moving, being in good support positions, being involved in the offensive zone. That's just about moving your feet, being aware, and reading the situation."
* * *
There’s a Nolan in Buffalo once again.
The Sabres have claimed forward Jordan Nolan off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings. Nolan is the son of two-time Sabres coach Ted Nolan.
“We’re happy to bring Jordan into the mix,” Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill said Wednesday. “His size and speed, along with his experience with such a successful organization like the Kings, make him an asset to the organization.”
The 28-year-old Nolan played in 292 games for the Kings and was a member of their Stanley-Cup-winning squads in 2012 and 2014.
The 6-foot-3, 219-pounder adds a physical element the Sabres lost with the trade of Marcus Foligno.
He has 20 goals, 42 points and 264 penalty minutes in his career. Nolan had four goals and eight points in 46 games last season.
Nolan is in the final season of a three-year contract that has a $950,000 cap hit.
* * *
Scandella took part in the team's morning skate on Wednesday but still has yet to dress in a preseason game for the Sabres. The team continues to be cautious with the defenseman who is returning from hip surgery.
"We're still cautious on that," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "He's making progress every day. He feels good. We just don't want to get ahead of ourselves. Would I like to see him play tonight? Definitely. But I just think he needs to be careful and monitor it. But I can say that he's making improvement every day."
* * *
The Sabres have not announced the official leadership group for the season and Housley said naming a captain will likely come after the preseason games.
"After the two preseason games, we'll re-evaluate and see how that goes," Housley said. "We really haven't gone down that road. This has only been a couple weeks of really getting on the ice with these guys and getting to know them, see how they react and how they fit into the team. That'll happen maybe after the preseason."