Matt Moulson (26), Brian Gionta (12) and Josh Gorges (4) posed with their new letters this afternoon. ©2014, Margaret Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Ted Nolan on captain Brian Gionta and Sabres’ leadership group: ‘A new direction’

BUFFALO – For the first time in years, the Sabres have stability in their leadership group.

Captains Brian Gionta and alternates Josh Gorges and Matt Moulson have a combined 12 years left on their contracts. Each veteran chose to join the rebuilding Sabres this offseason.

Ted Nolan, who’s beginning his first full season as Sabres coach since 1996-97, believes the trio will fill the leadership void he noticed late last season.

“Coming in, going in a new direction, I just thought new leadership, a new approach – new everything,” Nolan said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center following the captain announcement. “We’ll have a nice, fresh start for everyone. These three guys, you watch them in practice, you watch them in the room. We were watching them from the first day we met on how they interact with other people. To me, that really shows the type of people they are, the type of leaders they will be.”

Having served as the captain of the storied Montreal Canadiens for four seasons, Gionta’s a proven leader.

When the Sabres signed the 35-year-old winger July 1, many figured he would be the Sabres’ next captain.

“It was just one of those obvious choices when Brian signed here in the offseason,” Nolan said.

Nolan joked: “I bet you didn’t see that one coming.”

Gionta, a Greece native, never expected the captaincy, however.

“The focus coming into camp, coming into a new team was trying to get comfortable with the guys, grow with the guys, trying to find your place in the room, have them accept you,” he said. “You don’t go out of your way. We all come into the rink every day, do what we do. You don’t stray from what you are, the person you are, the character you are. It’s not for show.”

To Gionta, the leadership group feels fresh.

“It speaks to the direction ownership, management, coaching staff, the players, the direction we want to go,” he said. “Everybody’s on board.”

Check back later for a full story on the new leadership group.

In other news, the Sabres must make some roster moves before 5 p.m. to reach the 23-man limit.

Rookie defenseman Jake McCabe (maintenance) missed today’s session. The Sabres had 23 healthy skaters during today’s practice.

Update: The Sabres have placed McCabe, goalie Matt Hackett, winger Patrick Kaleta, forward Johan Larsson and defenseman Mark Pysyk on injured reserve to start the season.

For the time being at least, 19-year-old defenseman Nikita Zadorov has a roster spot.

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