When Marco Scandella hit town last year, he wasn't expecting to lose.
Scandella had been to the playoffs for five consecutive seasons with the Minnesota Wild. In 2011, he got to the Calder Cup final, playing for their AHL affiliate in Houston. Winning was all he knew as a pro.
Didn't happen last season. Things quickly went sour for the Sabres in Scandella's first year in Buffalo. He was alternately disgusted and in disbelief by what he saw in the locker room and on the ice at times during a season that ended with a last-place finish in the NHL's overall standings.
The 28-year-old hopes this year's training camp will set a different tone and get the Sabres back on the playoff path he was used to.
"It's going to take work ethic every day and this has been a good camp for it," Scandella said. "I believe in this group of guys. I feel like we can do it. The fans here deserve a winning team. It's such a good fan base, it's about time that we bring that product on the ice. I'm excited to be a part of that."
In a season in which he was coming off summer hip surgery, Scandella played all 82 games for the Sabres. He had five goals and 17 assists with a minus-15 rating that was his worst since 2012.
"This was a big summer of work for me," Scandella said. "Last offseason I was getting my hip back to 100 percent. This year, I was looking at what can I improve and how can we get better."
Scandella is a no-nonsense presence in the dressing room. There were several times last season when it was clear that he didn't think losing was being taken seriously enough. It's an attitude Scandella wants to erase.
"I think that just rubs off on our group," said coach Phil Housley. "When you see a guy that brings his best day in and day out, he's a great pro. It can only help our group. It's good to see him in good spirits. Marco is going to be a big part of this."
Scandella and Rasmus Ristolainen formed the team's top defense pair last year and are reunited for this season.
"I didn't play in any preseason games so I'm kind of thrown into the fire with him and we had to just figure it out," Scandella said. "Now we have that chemistry and it will be a lot more fun."
Scandella is getting that work in this year. He played 18 minutes, 45 seconds in Saturday's 3-2 loss to Toronto, collecting three shots on goal and blocking three shots.
Scandella is like everyone inside and outside the organization in that he's keenly interested to watch the development of No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin on the defense.
"He's a fantastic player and really good person, too," Scandella said. "You watch for little things. He's 18 years old. You make sure he's comfortable in the dressing room. He plays like a veteran out there, he's very composed. He knows his game."
While Dahlin is a huge addition, Scandella feels the biggest change in the Sabres' lineup this year is the overall talent level up front. The forwards should control the puck and score more, which will take a lot of pressure off the defense.
"That's definitely a huge thing for us. In general, we just have really good skating forwards," he said. "They're helping us with tracking, really helping us on 'D.' Then we get them the puck and they're making something happen with it. We have skating 'D' and great goalies. I just feel like collectively as a group, we're finding an identity. We have to bring that early in the year and shock the league. That's what we're trying to do."
For the second straight year, winger Matt Moulson has cleared waivers and been loaned to the Ontario Reign of the AHL, the top farm club of the Los Angeles Kings. He will cost the Sabres a cap hit of $3.975 million in the final year of his deal instead of the $5 million hit he'd have at the NHL level.
The Sabres sent winger Tyler Randell to Rochester on Sunday. They have 43 players still in camp. The team was off Sunday and returns to practice Monday morning in KeyBank Center. As in the regular season, workouts in the downtown arena are closed to the public except for game day morning skates.