Housley hoping to avoid a slow start off the bye week

January 17, 2018

Heading into the NHL's league-mandated bye week, the Buffalo Sabres came off of a big 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at KeyBank Center last Thursday night. After the five days off to rest and relax for a bit, the team is back in Buffalo and gearing up for a matchup with the New York Rangers this Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

Through the first 44 games of the season, the Sabres have been one of the worst teams in the NHL with an 11-24-9 record, and sit dead last in the Eastern Conference standings. Buffalo also comes out of the bye as the lowest scoring team in the league, averaging just 2.25 goals per-game and 99 goals total.

Since the start of the league-mandated bye weeks last season, teams around the NHL have tended to get off to slow starts, which has impacted their spot in the standings heading into the final stretch of the season. Even though the Sabres are 20 points out of a playoff spot and likely to miss out on the postseason, head coach Phil Housley is hoping to get his team into the right mindset out of the bye week.

"If you look at a lot of the teams that come out of that bye week, they're not doing very well," Housley said with Howard Simon and Jeremy White, Wednesday morning. "We've got to send that message that this team is ready to go, and we have to be ready to play because they have a lot to play for. We're going to have to be ready, so we've got to get our minds geared up, set in the right way and hopefully get off to a good start."

The Sabres have struggled since the start of the 2018 calendar year with losses in their first five games. However, they snapped that streak with their win over the Blue Jackets last Thursday to grab their first win since December 29th against the New Jersey Devils. Housley was pleased with his team's effort before taking their five days off.

"I thought we responded in the right way," Housley said. "I thought our attention to detail and our play away from the puck was very good. We did limit them in the chance department, they're a very good team. They're third in the Metropolitan Division, which is a very tough division right now at this point of the season. It was a good response."

Part of the reason for the win last Thursday was the play of Linus Ullmark in net and Brendan Guhle on the blue line. Ullmark made 44 saves on 45 shots faced in his first game of the season in Buffalo, and Guhle registered his first career point while playing a very solid game in both ends of the rink. The two of them were re-assigned to the Rochester Americans the day after the win to continue playing while the Sabres were on break.

Even though both Guhle and Ullmark were stellar in Thursday's win over Columbus, Housley wants both young players to remain in the American Hockey League and continue their winning ways in Rochester.

"They're going to stay in Rochester for now," Housley said. "They have a game tonight against Utica [Comets] in Utica, and we're going to continue to let them develop. It will be a topic of discussion moving forward here.

"I don't want to take anything away from Rochester and what they've accomplished up to this point of the season," Housley said. "They've had a terrific season as they get ready to go into the playoffs. There are certainly players that maybe we feel that are going to be a big part of our team in the future, and if they do get an opportunity and play well, I'd really like to keep them up here. Especially because of our schedule coming up here, we've got a lot of home games and we have to start winning more games at home and provide a winning culture in Buffalo as we build throughout the rest of this season."

You can listen to Housley's entire interview below: