Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres got their final practice in on Wednesday before opening the 2021-22 season on Thursday at home against the Montreal Canadiens.
Drake Caggiula returned to practice after having to leave on Tuesday with an unspecified injury.
With Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe both gone, Rasmus Dahlin has no choice but to become the Sabres' No. 1 defenseman. He improved under Don Granato and Dan Girardi last year, but had a very up-and-down preseason.
Most people feel the Sabres will do nothing but lose this season, but one thing Granato has done is make his players believe that they will surprise a lot of people this season.
Dahlin just finished his fourth Sabres training camp and is only 21-years-old. He said things are different around the arena these days.
“We’re younger. It’s a great group of guys that love to hang out with each other," the Swedish defenseman said following Wednesday's session. "We’re having a lot of fun, we like to compete with each other and it’s fun to come to the rink every day and hang out with those guys.”
The Sabres were the worst team in the National Hockey League last year by six points over the Anaheim Ducks. There’s no question in Dahlin’s mind that they’ll be better this season.
“If we get things right, we can do something good here," Dahlin said. “If we block a shot, we blocked the shot for the guys next to us. I really feel that we have that chemistry going.”
It took three or four years, but the Sabres have weeded out many of the bad attitudes from that locker room. Dahlin said he really thinks the guys here now are very close.
“We have good leadership, great guys," he said. "I think everyone is humble and everyone really wants to work for each other. We’re good friends off the ice too, so that’s the big part of it.”
Ristolainen and McCabe are no longer here to eat up 23-to-27 minutes per-game, so that’s now going to fall on Dahlin. He said he’s prepared for it mentally.
“It’s a mindset. I’ve been working on my body the whole summer, but you’ve got to earn every minute that you play out there too," Dahlin said. "You’ve got to make the right decision and you’ve got to be a guy they can trust.”