BUFFALO – Their faces told a story. One-by-one, Sabres players took their turn at a podium this morning, the start of training camp. Each one smiled and spoke optimistically.
They all talked about the great things the Sabres, the NHL’s laughingstock last year, can do this season after revamping the lineup this summer
“I didn’t come here to lose,” Sabres winger Brian Gionta, a July 1 signing, said inside the First Niagara Center. “The first step is to get into the playoffs.”
Sabres winger Matt Moulson, who re-signed following a stint in Minnesota, added: “I think this team is destined for great things.”
Winger Drew Stafford has a message for fans hoping the Sabres lose games and secure a high draft pick.
“I’m not going to apologize if we’re winning games,” he said.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan said “prospects are great.”
“Then some of them turn into suspects,” he said. “Then some of them turn into rejects. You never know with the drafts. The one thing I … already know is to compete and to battle and to work and to try to win.”
Players reported for their physicals today. They’ll skate Friday. Here’s some other interesting news from this morning:
– Nolan said he wants to name a captain soon.
“I believe in doing things early,” he said. “If you’re going to do it, do it quick. As the coaching decision at the end of the season, you don’t want it to linger around too much. If you basically know who the decision is, you try to do it as quick as you can, let it settle in and let the leaders lead.”
Many believe Gionta, Montreal’s captain four seasons, will wear the ‘C’ in Buffalo.
“There’s a couple on this team that deserve to be captain, so we talked with the coaching staff quite a bit about the leadership on this team,” Nolan said. “We’ll talk to those people first, and we’ll let you guys know.”
Gionta called captaincy talk “a little far off.”
“I’m just trying to come in, get comfortable with the guys, get comfortable with the coaching staff, the organization,” he said.
– Nolan, who doesn’t like playing 18-year-olds out of junior, on keeping slick center Sam Reinhart, the No. 2 pick in June:
“We’re going to do it the old-fashioned way, we’re going to earn it, and Sam’s no different. But there’s some special players that come around once in a while that don’t have to wait until they’re 22.”
– Nolan on the upcoming goalie battle between Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth:
“They both want to be No. 1, which is a good thing, and that’s one good thing about training camp is that you battle. You put them in. You see how training camp goes, and you let the war begin. Who wants it? It’s going to be a healthy competition. It’s not going to be, ‘I’m going to try to be better than you because I am better.’ It’s going to be whoever is going to better for the team.”