BUFFALO – During Wednesday’s practice, Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian experienced what he called a “Bogo moment.”
“I fell on the ice and everyone started laughing,” Bogosian said Thursday. “We always give each other a hard time.”
Actually, it was a little funnier than a simple spill.
“Bogo went headfirst into the boards,” Sabres winger Kyle Okposo said. “I was cracking up.”
The affable Bogosian, who always seems to be smiling, said he enjoyed the post-tumble “banter.”
“Typical practice thing where someone goes down and everyone starts making fun of him,” he said.
Bogosian’s teammates likely reminded him about Wednesday’s incident until he left the rink.
“If you do something that’s funny or careless or whatever, you can expect to hear about it the rest of the day,” Okposo said. “Guys are going to laugh at your expense.”
The Sabres have endured a miserable season, winning only eight games, the NHL’s second-lowest total. They’ve lost three straight games (0-2-1) and 16 of the last 19 contests (3-11-5) entering tonight’s tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers, their last game at KeyBank Center until Jan. 9.
Still, the Sabres have mostly stayed positive throughout another losing campaign. Hours after Tuesday’s 3-0 home loss to Boston, they were loose and laughing.
In less less than four months, the Sabres, a team that has used 13 new players this season, have quickly become a close-knit group.
“It’s just a bunch of guys that get along together on and off the ice,” said winger Jason Pominville, who rejoined the Sabres in June after five years in Minnesota. “Some guys have played together a little while, some guys have come in from different teams. Overall, we’re a young team. It seems like all the young guys get along together.”
Bogosian understands outsiders probably think the Sabres are hanging their heads.
“We’d like our record to be a lot better,” he said. “But we’re a tight group in here, we try to be as positive as possible. You got to have fun with it, right? You hang your head and you’re (ticked) off every day, that’s not going to make you better all of a sudden overnight.”
The Sabres’ core group – guys like Bogosian, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, forwards Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart and goalie Robin Lehner – have been together three or four seasons.
“When that’s in place, it’s pretty easy for someone new to come in,” Bogosian said. “We welcome people with open arms and try to be good teammates and good people. That’s the cool thing about this team, there’s a lot of really good people on it. Take hockey out of that, I think there’s a lot of people who have a lot of character, humility.”
Those kind of people, Bogosian said, pull a group “close together.”
“We all want each other to do well,” he said. “When you have that, you’re pulling for the guy to your left, to your right, nothing bad’s going to come out of that.”
Lehner said: “It’s a lot of good guys in here, open-minded guys. They take care of each other. Everyone’s involved with everyone.”
Of course, like any close group, the Sabres have their squabbles.
“Being tight and being able to push each other and sometimes snap on each other, it’s a good thing,” Pominville said. “So that’s always a good thing where guys know how far they can push it.
He added: “There’s those funny moments, there’s the angry moments, a lot of stuff that goes on that no one really sees. But there’s been both.”
For first-year Sabres coach Phil Housley, his group has made a disappointing season easier to handle.
“I really like the group, they’re pushing for each other, and it’s difficult when you go through a long period like this where you haven’t had a lot of success,” he said. “We’re in games and not finishing games. That could really go in a different direction because it’s hard mentally coming to the rink, getting ready for the next game when you’ve been through it.
“But … they’ve really stayed tight, they’re close, even in tough times. We’re going to have to really lean on each other now.”