The Buffalo Sabres upped the fun quotient at the end of practice Tuesday in HarborCenter, but it also seemed that coach Phil Housley was sending a message of what might be looming in a game sooner or later.
Housley decided to practice 3-on-3 simulations, and the starting unit in Gold would seem to be coming to an overtime near you.
Jack Eichel at center. Jeff Skinner on wing. Rasmus Dahlin on defense.
Dahlin has yet to have a chance at 3-on-3. The No. 1 overall pick is looking forward to hearing his name get called.
"It would be nice out there. You get a lot of space to work," he said. "You can really do something good. I will give 'Eichs' and 'Skins' the puck and they will score. It wouldn't be hard for me to skate too. If I see open space, I would take it of course. But Eichs and Skins have such good shots, they're dangerous. "
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) November 6, 2018
The Sabres have dropped their two OT games to date, Oct. 27 at Columbus and three nights later at home against Calgary. Dahlin did not play in the first one, lost on an Artemi Panarin goal after 31 seconds. He saw 45 seconds of action in the second one but only on 4-on-3 and 4-on-4 play, as a Flames penalty gave Buffalo a power-play chance.
While Rasmus Ristolainen has been involved in the loss of puck possession leading to both goals, Housley downplayed the use of Dahlin and said he just wanted to practice the skill. Dahlin and Housley both agreed the drill was really about shot selection.
"You can't screw it up by making a bad shot," Dahlin said. "They'll just take the puck right down and have a quick scoring chance. You really need to make sure it's a good chance to score."
In the end, after a few line changes and a couple goals, Jason Pominville's goal for the Blue team set off a wild celebration by teammate Zach Bogosian – and sent the Gold into doing pushups.
"It's really an undercover bag skate," a laughing Pominville said about 3-on-3 practice. "It's hard. You're going for 40 minutes of practice and then there's a lot of skating on 3-on-3. It's a great way to end it – especially when Blue wins."
What would it be like for opposing teams to face Dahlin & Co. in 3-on-3?
"You better be ready to skate, that's one thing," Pominville said. "Or get the puck and keep it."
The Sabres officially assigned West Seneca native Sean Malone to Rochester Tuesday afternoon. The center injured his knee in Buffalo's first exhibition game Sept. 17 in Columbus and returned to practice in Rochester on Thursday.
It's possible he could make his season debut with the Amerks Wednesday night, when they meet Cleveland in a 7 p.m. game at KeyBank Center. Malone had 12 goals and 22 assists last year in 73 games as an AHL rookie for Rochester.
The Amerks will be playing a game in Buffalo for the seventh straight year. They are 8-3-1 and lead the AHL's North Division by two points over Cleveland (7-4-1), the Columbus farm team.
Rochester defenseman Zach Redmond (8-8-16) and winger Victor Olofsson (6-10-16) are tied for second in the AHL in scoring behind Cleveland center and former Sabre Zac Dalpe (12-7-19). Olofsson was the AHL Player of the Month for October. Amerks rookie defenseman Lawrence Pilut (2-13-15) is the league leader in assists and is tied for fourth in scoring.
Tickets for the game are $10, $15 and $20.
Housley headed home to Minnesota immediately after practice to support his wife, Karin, and wait for the results for her bid for the state's seat in the U.S. Senate.
Housley tweeted support for his wife Tuesday morning when he wrote, "I am so proud of my wife ... and the many things she's accomplished for the people of Minnesota. She shows up, works hard and she gets things done."
The Sabres coach admitted it's a reversal of feelings for him, as his wife has spent 35 years rooting for him as a player and coach.
"It's her day. Obviously she's fought the good fight," Housley said. "She's run a really strong campaign, worked tremendously hard and the results will be the results. But she's got to be proud of the work that she's put in and obviously I'm going to be there to support her. I'm really proud of what she's done and what she's accomplished."
I am so proud of my wife Senator @karinhousley & the many things she’s accomplished for the people of Minnesota. She shows up, works hard & she gets things done. Now she’s running for the US Senate. Please get out & vote for her today. She will be a breath of fresh air in DC!
— Phil Housley (@philhousley6) November 6, 2018