CLINTON – There were lots of youth hockey days flashbacks during the morning skate for the Sabres Tuesday in Clinton Arena, as they prepared for Tuesday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in front of about 1,500 fans – including a few hundred screaming kids. Many of them were chanting, "Let's go, Buf-fa-lo" as the team took the ice.
"It was great," said coach Phil Housley. "Tunes were blaring. Guys were moving the puck really well. Feeling it. This crowd was awesome. It's going to be exciting tonight.
"It just brings you back to your childhood memories. All the guys are sitting in the locker room there all tight and we're doing our meeting. Actually it was a great feeling because you draw back from that when you were a kid playing with your buddies."
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) September 25, 2018
The teams arrived at the rink in a steady rain and signed autographs on a red carpet as volunteers with umbrellas kept the players dry. They then headed inside for their game-day work, after starting it with a team picture.
Clinton Arena is used for local high school and youth hockey, and Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt – who is only about 18 months removed from high school hockey in Eden Prairie, Minn. – said he felt right at home.
"The guys were making fun of me for saying it felt like high school," said a smiling Mittelstadt. "It was obviously cool to see all the fans and things like that. It makes it exciting and makes for a fun morning skate."
Defenseman Zach Bogosian, who grew up about three hours away in Massena, said his memories were rekindled on the Sabres' bus ride from Rome after their morning flight here.
"I'm used to seeing the back roads of New York State," Bogosian said. "So it kind of brought back some memories of the long hockey trips on the weekend with my parents and brothers. It was cool reminiscing about my childhood.
"If this was around when I was a kid, this is obviously something I would want to be at."
As for the game itself, the Sabres said ice conditions were good but a shorter-than-normal rink with tight corners should make for an interesting display of offense.
"Any shot will be a good shot today," Housley said.
"The corners are pretty square," Bogosian said. "It kind of reminds me of my junior days in Peterborough."
Housley confirmed he's tinkering with the lineup, starting Casey Nelson on defense with Rasmus Dahlin and moving Jake McCabe to his spot the last couple of seasons alongside Bogosian.
Mittelstadt, who has struggled defensively in the preseason, is going to be centering C.J. Smith and Andrew Oglevie. Jack Eichel and Patrik Berglund will be the top two centers. Scott Wedgewood will start in goal.