BUFFALO – The anger was visible today throughout the Sabres’ tense 90-minute practice inside the First Niagara Center.
At one point, coach Ted Nolan, whose 2-8 team was demolished 4-0 in Toronto on Tuesday, yelled, “Wake the (expletive) up!” Players exchanged words and yelled out in frustration. Captain Brian Gionta banged his stick on the glass and demolished it on the bench.
Nolan said he gives his teams a “10-game grace period” to start to a season.
“You give them a little bit of rope and maybe some will hang themselves,” a sweaty Nolan said. “What we saw the last 10 or so games we saw that. Now’s the time, taking it easy is over now. We got to work. I’ll take full responsibility for that. Maybe I didn’t push them hard enough. But today’s the day we have to start.
“One of my favorite sayings is, ‘If it’s not working, maybe you’re not working hard enough.’ I was upset the way we worked.”
Nolan’s usually mild-mannered and even-keeled. Clearly, Tuesday’s feeble effort, one of the worst losses in recent memory, embarrassed him.
“We got to get our battle effort up,” he said. “We got to get our intensity level up. We got to get our enthusiasm up. We got to get our passion up.”
Gionta added: “Everyone knows what needs to be done. We’re just not doing it. It’s mentality. It’s mindset. It’s the culture, and we need to change it.”
Nolan keeps saying the Sabres have a good group of guys, something he repeated today.
“We got some good characters on this team,” he said. “I’ve never doubted that. Sometimes we get caught up in wishing for things to turn around versus working for things to turn around.”
But the Sabres don’t have many loud, emotional players.
“Some people are very emotional, some are not,” Nolan said. “Right now, we got a quiet group of athletes. They’re not boisterous, they’re not loud. You don’t try to make something that’s not there. But you have to work with what’s there.”
He added: “If we’re quiet, then let’s be a loud quiet.”
Nolan cited legendary Philadelphia coach Fred Shero to illustrate his point.
“He said, ‘You have to learn to win with what you got, or you don’t win at all,’” he said.
The Sabres won’t win much if they don’t start scoring. They have 10 goals in 10 games, the fewest ever scored in the modern era in that stretch, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“If we play the way we played last night, I’m quite sure we’ll break some more of those records,” Nolan said. “If you don’t shoot, you’re not going to score. If you don’t get people in front of the net, you’re not going to score.”
In other news, Nolan said rookie center Sam Reinhart will play his ninth game Thursday against Boston. The 18-year-old’s contract kicks in with his 10th. Goalie Jhonas Enroth will start.
Check back soon for a blog on Cody Hodgson and the new lines.