Phil Housley let the Sabres know they must play fast. ©2018, Hickling Images

Sabres must showcase speed against upstart Canadiens

BUFFALO – Early in this morning’s practice, the Sabres’ first full session since winning two road games over the weekend, coach Phil Housley did not like his team’s pace.

So Housley, who rarely raises his voice, briefly ripped into the Sabres as they prepared for Thursday’s home tilt against the Montreal Canadiens.

“We’re too (expletive) slow right now!” Housley shouted on the HarborCenter ice. “We got to attack with speed!”

After wins in Los Angeles and Anaheim, the Sabres had a day off Monday and worked on their skills Tuesday. Today was their first full practice since Friday.

“Now we had to start getting our head and mind right playing a really good Montreal team tomorrow,” Housley said later inside KeyBank Center. “They’re a very fast team and I just wanted us to push the pace a little bit more.”

Montreal, which many pegged to be among the NHL’s worst this season, is perhaps the league’s biggest surprise. Right now, at 5-1-2, the Canadiens rank first place in the Atlantic Division.

“No. 1, they’re playing as a team,” Housley said. “They have good balance throughout their lineup, they have four lines that can go and they’re (a) very fast team. The transition game, it’s all about speed and stretching the ice.

“They have very good goaltending. Special teams are OK. But I think their rush game and their transition game with the speed up front is very deadly.”

Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe said: “We just need to pick up our pace, especially against a team that’s coming into our building playing some really good hockey tomorrow night. They play a really fast game.”

Three Canadiens have eight points, including winger Tomas Tatar, who looks rejuvenated after experiencing a rough stint with the Vegas Golden Knights last season.

Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who has played six games, won’t start Thursday, according to the team. Instead, backup Antti Niemi will play.

In others news, Housley said defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, out with an undisclosed injury over the weekend, is healthy. Beaulieu, however, practiced today as a spare.

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