Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres were finally able to practice on Monday after wrapping up their grueling January schedule of games on Saturday.
Tage Thompson watched part of practice from behind the bench on Monday. The Sabres say he’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury. After practice, Sabres head coach Don Granato said it’s something he’s been playing through.
“He’s been dealing with nagging issues, and they’re a little bit more from last game. So it’s way better for him to just take the day," said Granato. "He could’ve skated today, but it was way better for him to just take the day.”
Granato wouldn’t say anything about whether any of his injured players will play on Wednesday. The head coach seems to be playing careful with his leading scorer.
“I’m pretty certain Thompson will be in practice [Tuesday], but you either rest it and it recovers, or you continue to play with it and it never goes away,” Granato said.
Mattias Samuelsson and Dylan Cozens both were on the ice for practice on Monday. Both had missed Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss against the Minnesota Wild.
Following Monday's practice, Samuelsson was optimistic, saying he’s been doing better each day. He even goes as far to say he thinks he’ll be able to play Wednesday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"I’m planning on it," the defenseman said. "It felt better today, and every day and every hour I feel a little better. This little three-day break is nice for me.”
Buffalo had played one four-game saw the team go 1-3. It was at that point Granato knew he had to change some things up.
“That gave me enough of the picture that we’re a young team and we’re learning to play more efficient, and I felt we are a much better team fresh," he said. "We're fast and have skill, and that deteriorates extremely fast upon fatigue. It was a pretty clear indicator to me after the first couple of games that rest was way more beneficial than practice.”
Kyle Okposo is a veteran of this league, so he knows what to do when the schedule gets tough.
“Honestly, I think it’s getting a little bit overblown. It is what it is," the Sabres captain said on Monday. "We’ve been playing so many games that it’s like, you’re not going to get out of shape.
“Practice, at this point, is just to go out and skate and feel the puck. You play 82 games at the pace that we do, and with the schedule that we have, everything is geared towards the games at this point of the year.”
Buffalo has points in seven-straight games, going 5-0-2. There have also been some losing streaks along the way, and the captain knows why.
“I think it’s taken longer for us to establish an identity this year, but I think that we have and I think that we’re really solid in our game," Okposo said. "We know the way that we have to play, and we’re comfortable with playing a tight checking team, or we’re comfortable playing a wide-open game. It’s taken a little bit longer than I thought it would, but that, for me, has been the biggest strength of our team. We know who we are, and we’re not scared to play our game versus anybody.”
There were no lines to talk about from practice on Monday, as they did a lot of 3-on-3 scrimmaging, which Granato said he changed up while practice was going on.