BUFFALO – Coach Phil Housley’s firm voice cut through the din of Friday’s practice every few minutes.
“He was definitely vocal,” winger Kyle Okposo said after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s home tilt against the New York Rangers. “I think we got the message.”
Actually, Housley relayed multiple messages Friday morning, hours after an embarrassing 4-0 loss left him seething. He delivered his first before practice.
“I walked in this morning to the group and said … ‘The sun came up,’” Housley said inside KeyBank Center.
Yes, Thursday’s loss was ugly. Still, it was the first of 82 games. The Sabres have time to work things out.
“Don’t carry what happened yesterday to today,” Sabres winger Jason Pominville said.
With so much roster turnover – the Sabres dressed seven new players against the Boston Bruins – it could take time to work out the kinks.
So Housley directed perhaps his most vocal practice as Sabres coach. At times, he stopped the session to give more instructions.
“A lot of guys that are new, we can’t assume they know it, so we just go over it and make the corrections and go forward,” Housley said. “So when you do stop practice, it’s not so much a point of emphasis on something that’s broken. We’re trying to fix it but learn from it. But I did like the reaction when we did talk about it.”
Housley, whose Sabres finished in 31st place last season, was so upset following Thursday’s game, he said, “We are not going through this again.”
“He’s holding us accountable out there,” Okposo said. “We did some things not very well in the last game that he pointed out, and then we continued to do some of those things in practice, and he held us accountable for it. That’s what he’s supposed to do.”
Housley has already tinkered with his lines, moving newcomer Jeff Skinner, a three-time 30-goal scorer, to left wing beside Okposo and center Patrik Berglund. Meanwhile, Conor Sheary, another offseason acquisition, replaced Skinner beside top center Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
It could be a short-lived move.
“We want to try to get Jeff back up there with Jack,” Housley said.
Sheary spent much of his first few seasons skating with Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, so he’s used to playing on a top scoring line.
The Sabres started generating more offense against the Bruins after Housley switched up some lines.
“The lines in general played a lot better in the third period,” Housley said. “It was one of those things where you don’t want to jump the gun and panic after the first period. I try to let them work through.”
Only the fourth line, the Sabres’ best trio throughout the opener, stayed intact Friday. Housley said simplicity buoyed the combination of Pominville, center Evan Rodrigues and winger Zemgus Girgensons.
“They were our most consistent line,” Housley said. “They got the most pressure, they didn’t face too much D zone because they worked hard to get back and supported our defense.”
Sabres winger Vladimir Sobotka is day-to-day after suffering an upper-body injury, Housley said.
Sobotka briefly fought Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy, although neither received a major penalty.
If Sobotka can’t play tonight, winger Remi Elie, a waiver claim from the Dallas Stars, will likely make his Sabres debut.
Elie, 23, practiced at left wing Friday beside center Casey Mittelstadt and Tage Thompson.
“I like Remi, just the way he practices, he’s got an energy about him,” Housley said. “He can skate, he can pass, he can shoot. He’s going to get a look at some point.”
Elie said: “They just want me to … be a power forward, get on the forecheck, use my speed to my advantage.”