The "Road to the Winter Classic" acknowledges the Buffalo Sabres are, at best, a work in progress, so it's not surprising the premiere starts by focusing on the New York Rangers. But fans of Jason Pominville, bowling and behind-the-scenes clips will enjoy the opening episode Wednesday night.
The four-part television documentary, which tracks the Sabres and Rangers as they head toward a New Year's Day game in Citi Field, will begin at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday on NBCSN. The Buffalo News received an early look Wednesday afternoon.
The show opens with a look at the difference between the teams and cities, with New York laying claim as the "biggest stage in the world." The cameras follow the Rangers' Jimmy Vesey, Brady Skjei and Kevin Hayes as they ride the subway in full gear on their way to an outdoor practice.
After shifting back to Buffalo, the talk is of the hole in the franchise's résumé – its lack of a Stanley Cup. Coach Phil Housley speaks of wanting to win one and introduces viewers to Jack Eichel.
"He has the skill to become one of the elite players in the game," Housley says of Eichel, who gives the team an end-of-practice pep talk.
Transit Lanes, Roswell Park and the Sabres' foundation get airtime as the cameras film Buffalo's annual Bowl-A-Rama. There's a comical look at Kyle Okposo's bowling abilities, while Zach Bogosian's choice of footwear is certainly intriguing.
After an extended look at Kevin Shattenkirk living out his dream of playing for his hometown team, the defenseman helps the Rangers beat New Jersey. It's a treat to see and hear Lindy Ruff, who is an assistant coach in New York.
The cameras then head to the home of Buffalo's Jason Pominville. It's easily the highlight of the 23-minute show for Sabres fans, so we'll skip the details.
The series also profiles New York's Rick Nash before taking in the Sabres' visit to St. Louis last weekend. After a quiet interview with Eichel, the show has highlights of Buffalo's 3-2 overtime loss. Viewers go inside the dressing room for pep talks by Josh Gorges and Housley.
Narrated by Emmy- and Tony-nominated actor Bill Camp, the premiere of "Road to the Winter Classic" provides enough Buffalo material to keep Sabres fans watching.