Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres were back at training camp on Monday with the players that played in Sunday’s win over the Washington Capitals getting the day off.
While it’s still early in camp, defenseman Mattias Samuelsson has been paired with veteran Erik Johnson for the first four practices. Sabres head coach Don Granato knew that signing a veteran like Johnson would rub off on a young defensemen like Samuelsson.
Samuelsson has already gotten to know Johnson pretty well.
"He’s an unreal guy," said Samuelsson on Monday following practice in Downtown Buffalo. "We hung out and went to dinner a couple of times right when he got here, and he’s helped me a ton off the ice already with some recovery stuff, and telling me what’s worked for him over the years. And on the ice, he talks a lot, but he’s trying to learn the system and I’m trying to learn from him as well.
“I just keep picking his brain. He’s such a good guy that it doesn’t really matter if it’s a dumb question. He’ll answer and try to help, but whenever I can pick his brain, I do. I even text him stuff when I leave the rink, so I’m probably bothering him a bit, but I’m just trying to get as much information from him as I can."
Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin said earlier in training camp that Johnson had him buy a sauna to help with recovery. Samuelsson laughed when I asked him if he had bought one, saying he hadn't, but will just use Dahlin’s sauna.
Last season, Samuelsson played quite a bit of his time on ice with Dahlin. They are both left-handed shots, but sometimes within a shift, they would flip-flop from the left side to the right side.
With Johnson, Samuelsson has stayed on the left side of the ice, which he’s just fine with.
"I started on the left side, so that’s my natural side," Samuelsson said. "It feels fine, but 'E.J.’s' been playing long enough that if he gets stuck on the left, I think he’s OK. So it’s not much of an adjustment.”
Johnson, 35, is a right-handed shooter.
Samuelsson says he thinks he’s in the best shape of his life, and that he worked on a lot of different things throughout the summer to ready himself for the 2023-24 campaign.
Granato mentioned in June or July that there’s a possibility he may use all three of his left-shot defensemen on the left side. So far in training camp, he’s done just that.
In addition to Samuelsson and Johnson, he’s had Owen Power with Henri Jokiharju and Dahlin with Connor Clifton.
On the injury front, winger Viktor Neuchev returned to practice on Monday. He’s been out since the final game of the Sabres Prospects Challenge.