The Sabres haven't played since Saturday's 3-2 loss to San Jose. They don't play again until Thursday night in Arizona. So the long break gave coach Phil Housley a chance to drive the club during practice Tuesday in HarborCenter.
Housley opted against a training-camp style review of his team's objectives on the ice within a game. Instead, he pushed hard for 70 minutes over both rinks, doing numerous drills to reinforce his club's need to get better without the puck and to compete harder to get it back when possession is not in its hands.
Asked if he's concerned that some players in his room know nothing but losing in their Buffalo careers, Housley had some interesting perspective about what he's seen during his team's 3-7-2 start.
"All I can judge is what I see is right now," he said. "And I see a team that at key times in the game, we sort of break. We have to have a mental toughness in that area where we can't crack and that's part of the culture too, building that reassurance. Just continue to play the way we're playing. We don't have to do anything out of the ordinary."
Housley said his team's defensive play is what's holding it back.
"We have a lot of talent in that room to win hockey games," he said. "It's our play without the puck to me that has to get better... We have to take pride in our defense, take pride in the fact if it's 1-1, 1-0 or 2-2 that we can play in those games. Right now we're the ones cracking."
Housley, a huge Bills fan, gave it up to Sean McDermott & Co. for getting to 5-2 and said his club can take a lesson from all the talking points surrounding the Bills' fast start.
"What is the thing they're talking about? It's their defense," he said. "That's what's changing things for them, creating turnovers. That's the point I'm getting at. We have to take pride in that area."
Justin Falk, who has yet to play this season, was back fully at practice and is an option to play Thursday. There were no other injured players making their returns.
The lines at practice were:
Moulson-Larsson-Nolan (Griffith extra)
The defense pairs were
Taylor Fedun, recalled earlier in the day from Rochester, was an extra.