BUFFALO – Oh, Ted Nolan knows. The coach likely understands the Sabres’ rabid fan base will root against them throughout Thursday’s highly anticipated tilt against the Arizona Coyotes. A loss would almost guarantee the Sabres either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in June.
Nolan can’t say much, however.
“I can’t control what other people think and what other people do,” Nolan said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center. “The only thing I know is what I feel. I’m not speaking for anyone else. I’m just speaking for myself. Who wants to finish last? I never went into anything my entire life wanting to finish last.
“You go into it with the right intentions. It’s the integrity of the game that’s in mind for me. So you just got to do what you have to do and feel what you want to feel. If somebody wants to finish last, good for them.”
Nolan acknowledged some people want to the Sabres to lose Thursday.
“But for the vast majority, I don’t think people come here to watch you lose or to want you to lose,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s in the feelings of this city. I never felt it. That’s why I don’t think it’s there.”
Update: Coyotes captain Shane Doan, one of the NHL’s most respected leaders, knows Thursday could be interesting.
“Oh yeah, it’s impossible not to think about,” Doan said. “There’s been hype about it. It’s not hype from anyone that’s positive. It is what it is. You can’t really control what the fans are going to do.”
Doan believes fans “have to right to do whatever they want to do.”
“I’m sure it’s not going to be near as bad as anyone thinks it is, and it’s going to be one of those things that as a player you’re not going to really notice,” he said.
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said the hype around the game belongs to the Sabres, not his team.
“That’s outside,” he said. “We deal with what’s inside our room, not outside our room.”
Another update: The Sabres sent forward Tim Schaller back to Rochester this afternoon, so winger Patrick Kaleta (bone chip) is likely ready to return from an 18-game absence.
Check back later for much more.