BUFFALO – In his 11 NHL seasons, winger Matt Moulson has played for nine coaches, including four with the Sabres.
There have been Stanley Cup winners (Marc Crawford and Dan Bylsma), rookies (Scott Gordon, Ron Rolston and others) and old school veterans (Terry Murray and Ted Nolan).
Moulson, 33, has experienced the NHL coaching gamut. So when the three-time 30-goal scorer says new Sabres coach Phil Housley’s sessions “are some of the best practices I’ve been a part of in my professional days,” it has meaning.
His words hold weight.
“The pace of practice and compete has been tremendous,” Moulson said prior to Saturday’s preseason tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs inside KeyBank Center.
Moulson’s tenure here has often been arduous and filled with losing. Since the Sabres acquired him almost four years ago, he’s morphed from arguably their best forward into a healthy scratch.
But after a wretched eight-goal season in 2015-16, he enjoyed a solid comeback campaign a year ago, scoring 14 goals, including 11 power-play scores.
“He’s a true scorer, he can bury the puck in the net,” Housley said.
These days, Moulson’s upbeat about his opportunity to impress a new coaching staff and general manager, Jason Botterill.
“The attitude around this rink this training camp has been unbelievable with him,” Moulson said of Botterill.
In Saturday’s contest, Moulson skated on the top line beside slick center Jack Eichel and Kyle Okposo. Moulson played with Eichel a bit last season. Mostly, however, he moved around the lineup, sometimes playing on the fourth line.
It was believed Moulson, who signed to a five-year, $25 million contract in 2014, could be bought out during the offseason. After all, former GM Tim Murray inked him to the huge deal.
Some also thought the Vegas Golden Knights might grab Moulson in the NHL Expansion Draft. He would’ve given the Golden Knights a veteran scoring threat and helped them reach the salary floor. He’s also close to their GM, George McPhee.
“You can’t control the other things, so it’s not worth worrying about,” Moulson said of the uncertainty.
“(I put) maybe a little more concentration on skating with my skating coach, getting faster, getting a little quicker,” he said of his summer. “We worked on that even more this summer. No matter what age, you’re trying to find that extra step to be quicker. The game is extremely fast.”
When Moulson re-upped with the Sabres, he bought into owner Terry Pegula’s vision of the future. It has taken a while, but perhaps Pegula has finally found the right men to run his team.
“I knew the Pegula family wants to win, and I wanted to be here to win with this team,” Moulson said. “I think we still have a long way to go in terms of cleaning some things up before the season, but we have a great group of guys in here, a tremendous staff.”
Hudson Fasching scored the Sabres’ lone goal as they fell to 1-2-1 in the preseason. Kasperi Kapaneni’s third-period power-play goal broke the tie.
“We got to get more of a mindset of a shot mentality,” said Housley, whose team had 25 shots. “We’re just passing opportunities up to get pucks to the net. So much is created from that. The defensive team has to react to it, you’re moving down on it. Things happen (from it).”
The Sabres scored one goal against the Leafs in two weekend losses.
The Sabres sent the following players to the Rochester Americans on Saturday: forwards Eric Cornel, Vaclav Karabacek and Kevin Porter; defensemen Brycen Martin, Casey Nelson and Devante Stephens; goalies Jason Kasdorf, Jonas Johansson and Adam Wilcox.
The Sabres have 36 players – 21 forwards, 12 defensemen and three goalies – left in camp. The Amerks open their camp Monday.
Housley had no update following the game on Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues, who left Friday’s 3-0 loss after getting hit into the boards.
Notes: Since Housley hasn’t named a captain, he has been using three alternate captains each game. Eichel, Okposo and winger Evander Kane each wore an ‘A’ Saturday. … The Sabres announced a crowd of 17,345. … The Sabres have today off.