BUFFALO – Instead of dressing at the First Niagara Center and busing to the Riverside Ice Rink or another local facility today, the Sabres simply put on their sandals or sneakers and walked across the street to HarborCenter, the new $170 million facility that opened earlier this fall.
Practicing outside the First Niagara Center is no longer a hassle. Naturally, the Sabres’ first session inside the sparkling facility had a huge “wow” factor.
“It’s beautiful,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said inside HarborCenter. “It’s a great facility for us to have.”
Nolan knows the Sabres are lucky to have a state-of-the-art facility on their turf.
“Few teams in the league have luxuries like we have,” he said. “To have facility this close by, just walk over, it’s ideal.”
Sabres winger Drew Stafford said it was “phenomenal in here.” Stafford has always lived downtown near the waterfront, just a short drive from the facility.
“To see this being built over the last couple years and planned and finally being inside and looking outside some of those windows, a different view, it’s pretty cool,” he said. “I like how they kind of kept it a little bit classic in here with the ceiling and stuff, it’s pretty cool. If I was a member of Canisius or the Jr. Sabres (the main tenants), I’d feel pretty lucky. It’s a great setup for us to just walk across the street.”
How was the ice?
“It’s OK,” Stafford said. “It’s very similar to our rink. Sometimes it gets a little hot, a little sloppy right away.”
In other news, defenseman Josh Gorges, out the last two games with a left pinky injury, said he should be able to play Saturday against Colorado.
“I think so,” he said. “Then again, I thought I was playing the last two.”
Meanwhile, forwards Cody McCormick and Torrey Mitchell and defenseman Tyson Strachan (all lower body) missed today’s practice. Strachan had a maintenance day. McCormick and Mitchell are week-to-week, Nolan said.
The Sabres practiced with only 11 forwards, so one will be recalled, Nolan said. Struggling forwards Cody Hodgson and Chris Stewart practiced without a regular linemate today. Nolan shifted Brian Flynn to center with Stafford and captain Brian Gionta.