GLENDALE, Ariz. — Buffalo Sabres coach Phil Housley was used to these kinds of trips when he was an assistant in Nashville. When you're in the Western Conference, it's no big deal to be gone two weeks at a time for long road jaunts.
It's not nearly as common when you're in the East.
When the Sabres took the ice Saturday night to meet the Arizona Coyotes in Gila River Arena, it was the start of their longest roadie to the West Coast since 2010.
"Just getting off to a good start on your first game, because of the long flight and the circumstances going on the road, is always critical," Housley said prior to the game. "We'd like to kick off this road trip with a win. That sort of sets the stage for the rest of the trip."
This is the fourth time in five years the Sabres have had a long October trip to either Western Canada or the Western United States. They are 3-5-2 in those games on the previous three trips.
This one continues Tuesday night in Las Vegas before moving to a game in San Jose on Thursday and a back-to-back at Los Angeles and Anaheim next Saturday and Sunday.
The Sabres have had several stretches of six or seven consecutive road games in their history but many of them were sprinkled with games against Eastern teams.
The only other time they've played five straight out West came as part of a seven-gamer in January, 2010. The trip opened with a win in Atlanta and a shootout loss against the New York Islanders before the team made the long flight.
The Sabres went 1-3-1 on the Western segment, beating Phoenix and losing a shootout in Los Angeles. The Sabres lost in Anaheim, San Jose and Vancouver.
This is the first time they've played five straight on the road anywhere since going 0-4-1 from Feb. 28-March 11, 2015. That trip ended in Toronto after the team came home.
So this is the first time they're going five straight away from home since going 1-4 from March 18-27, 2014. They won in Edmonton and lost in Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal and Nashville.
Linus Ullmark made his first start of the season in goal for the Sabres after Carter Hutton went 2-2 over the first four games with a 3.06 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. Both of those figures were bloated by Thursday's 6-1 loss to Colorado. Ullmark had not played since a 5-1 exhibition loss Sept. 26 at Pittsburgh.
Winger Vladimir Sobotka, who missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, returned to the lineup Saturday night. Johan Larsson, who was ineffective while making his season debut Thursday against Colorado, became a healthy scratch along with Remi Elie.
The Sabres have played the same six defensemen each game this season. Matt Tennyson has been a healthy scratch in all five games and Zach Bogosian, who was injured Sept. 25 during the Hockeyville exhibition in Clinton, again sat out but is on the trip and could play at some point in the next week.
Jason Pominville played in his 665th game as a Sabre, snapping a tie with former captain Mike Foligno and current Buffalo Beauts coach Ric Seiling for 10th on the club's all-time list.
Pominville is just 16 behind Rick Martin (681) for ninth place and 47 behind Alexei Zhitnink (712) for eighth. He's the first Sabre to crack the top 10 in games since Zhitnik moved into eighth during the 2003-04 season.
Center Patrik Berglund played in his 699th career game and is scheduled to play No. 700 in Vegas.
The Coyotes think Dylan Strome is finally finding his game. The No. 3 overall pick in 2015 is trying to shed the stigma about being picked immediately behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel and not becoming an NHL regular.
Strome broke the Coyotes' goal drought at more than 137 minutes in Wednesday's win at Anaheim after Arizona was shut out in its first two contests. He has has 13 points in his last 13 games dating to last season, when he was also an AHL All-Star for Tucson after collecting 22 goals and 53 points in 50 games. Strome entered Saturday second in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 69.2.
So much for the Valley of the Sun.
Nearly 1 1/2 inches of rain pounded Phoenix and environs Saturday with a second storm system that swooped after rain started Friday night from the remnants of Tropical Storm Sergio. Emergency cell phone alerts warning of flash flooding went off three times during the morning and afternoon.
A couple of freeways heading from downtown to Glendale were flooded and closed in the afternoon before reopening a couple of hours before the opening faceoff. Less than halfway through the month, this has already been the second wettest October on record in Phoenix.