AMHERST – Through his first two days as the Buffalo Sabres’ interim coach, Ron Rolston has been polite and quick to smile. It’s hard to imagine the 46-year-old ever raising his voice.
Still, Rolston, who coached the Sabres to a 3-1 loss Thursday in Toronto, assesses his team bluntly.
“We’re the team that blinks first when you have a stare down,” Rolston said this afternoon inside the Northtown Center following his first full practice as coach.
The Sabres, who host the New York Islanders on Saturday, have wilted all season. They did it again in Rolston’s debut, allowing the go-ahead goal late in the second period.
“The faceoff’s in the (Toronto) zone and we make a mistake in execution, and the next thing you know it’s a 2-1 game going into the third,” Rolston said. “And that’s part of the reason things aren’t going the way we want them to go.”
He added: “In this league, if you have even a short span of a couple of shifts where you don’t execute, that can be the difference in a game. A lot of times that’s been the case here.”
When Rolston watched the game again, “I saw some good things, some positive signs, obviously. There’s some of the same issues in terms of why we’re not being successful and why we’re losing games. Right now, those things have to be fixed.”
Rolston, you might’ve noticed, wears regular work gloves from Home Depot on the ice instead of hockey gloves.
Why? It’s just convenience. He believes he started sporting them while working with Team USA in Michigan.
“I don’t even know when I started, to tell you the truth,” Rolston said. “I think it was in Ann Arbour. It just got to the point I didn’t need the hockey gloves anymore. You take them off to get to your whistle. You’re putting them down to write on the board.
“At some point, I said, ‘What do I need to wear gloves for out here?’ So I just got a pair of work gloves. … It’s easy to work with the pen and the whistle.”
He added: “I didn’t want to come up here and change. That’s who I am right now.”
In other news, goalie Ryan Miller was given a maintenance day today.
Rolston said defenseman Jordan Leopold (hand) is progressing and won’t be sidelined long. Meanwhile, defenseman Andrej Sekera (charley horse) could return Saturday.
Winger Steve Ott left practice early but is fine.
Related: Leafs spoil Rolston’s coaching debut, down Sabres