BUFFALO – The scene could be bizarre Thursday for the “Game of Weak” showdown between the Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes, the NHL’s two worst teams.
Would Sabres fans really cheer for the Coyotes, who have a five-point lead, inside the First Niagara Center? Would they boo a Sabres goal?
After all, another Sabres loss would essentially secure them 30th place, meaning they are guaranteed either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, the two mega-prospects teams covet, in June.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan expects the city’s blue-collar fans will appreciate his team’s effort.
“I don’t think you have to say anything to this city,” Nolan said Tuesday. “This city knows what it’s like to work. It’s a city full of workers. I don’t know anybody in this town who would go to work and not give their best, and that’s what we’re trying to do as a hockey team. So I’m quite sure the fans will get behind that.”
Nolan believes everyone in the dressing room is frustrated with the talk surrounding Thursday’s game.
“These guys are all professional guys,” he said. “Nobody would want to go in and approach like no other game. You want to go out and do your best. The outside distractions are always going to be there. It teaches you a little bit more resolve on how to keep those outside distractions outside.”
The Sabres haven’t quit 73 games into the season, so it’s unlikely they’ll start now. They played the Stars tough Monday in Dallas, blowing three leads in a 4-3 loss, including a 3-2 advantage with 7:25 left.
These days, the rebuilding club just doesn’t have the horses to close out wins.
“It’s not so much frustrating,” Nolan said about the loss. “You have enough just to get where we get to and not enough to get on the other side. It’s part of the process you have to go through when we’re in the situation we are. We’re right there. If we had a (Tyler) Seguin on our side, maybe the game is switched. But it’s just one of those things, you can’t be disappointed with the guys’ resolve. I mean, they just keep going and keep going. It’s very frustrating.”
In other news, the Sabres held a three-man practice Tuesday – defenseman Zach Bogosian, winger Patrick Kaleta and center Cody McCormick skated – after getting back from Dallas early this morning.
Bogosian (lower body) and Kaleta (bone chip) could play Thursday. McCormick skated in light equipment and a hat and is still targeting a September return from his blood clot. He hasn’t played since Jan. 9.
“A little bit of cabin fever,” McCormick said. “It’s great to get out there with these guys. It’s just kind of a breath of fresh air when you get out on the ice.”
Nolan added: “To see him out there today just skating around is a good sign.”
McCormick said he has a checkup in April.
Meanwhile, Nolan said winger Jerry D’Amigo will be evaluated further after getting hit in the face Saturday. He also said goalie Matt Hackett could start Thursday.
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