BUFFALO – Center Ryan O’Reilly, the Sabres’ most versatile presence on the ice and their most accountable voice off it, certainly makes a fine candidate for the Sabres’ vacant captaincy.
Coach Phil Housley said Thursday he’s in no hurry to name a captain, meaning the Sabres might not have someone wearing the ‘C’ permanently for a few weeks or even later.
O’Reilly, 26, said he hasn’t thought about the captaincy. Still, he said receiving it “would be an honor.”
“You look at the guys who have worn it in the past in this organization, its something very special,” O’Reilly said Friday following the first session of training camp inside HarborCenter. “With a letter or not, the stuff that needed to change I think has and that’s what we want.”
O’Reilly has been an alternate captain since arriving two years ago. The Sabres didn’t re-sign veteran winger Brian Gionta, their captain the last three seasons.
At one point during Friday’s second session, Housley stopped line drills to address his players.
“I just thought it was a little sloppy, our execution needed to better, and I just thought I’d address that because we want to play fast, and if you don’t execute, you’re not going to be able to play fast,” he said. “I thought they did a great job in responding.”
Housley has said he wants to give Reinhart, who has played center occasionally in the NHL, a look pivoting lines.
“I’ve spent my whole career and back and forth,” Reinhart said. “I’ve been ready for it. I’m going to let my play earn my opportunity just like everyone should coming into this year.”
Reinhart, the second overall pick in 2014, scored 17 goals and 47 points in 79 games last season.
Housley on Russian defenseman Victor Antipin, who spent his entire in Europe before signing with the Sabres in May: “He’s a student of the game. … He really absorbs a lot, likes to watch a lot of video trying to understand our concepts. He’s like a sponge.”
He added: “He’s a terrific skater, he leads well. As his game builds, I think he’ll be more aggressive in his reads, especially in the neutral zone. I enjoy him.”
The Sabres’ last three preseason games – Sept. 23 at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sept. 27 at the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sept. 29 at home against the New York Islanders – will be broadcast on MSG, the team announced Friday.
Housley said the Sabres are “guarding on the side of caution” with Nylander, who was injured in the first game of the Prospects Challenge rookie tournament last week.
Malone, meanwhile, is close to skating, Housley said.