Housley: 'Our team recognizes what it takes to win in this league'

November 1, 2017

The month of October has come to an end, and the Buffalo Sabres are not sitting in a spot where they had imagined they would be before the start of the season.

Buffalo went an ugly 3-7-2 through the first month of the season, and currently sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Luckily, it is still early in the season and the Sabres are only five points back of the final wild card spot in the conference.

As a team, the Sabres have struggled offensively as one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. Buffalo has only accounted for 29 goals for, which is the fifth-lowest total in the NHL. Buffalo is a middle of the pack team when it comes to shots per-game (31.5), but have also struggled to generate powerplay goals after being the top-ranked unit in the NHL last season.

On the defensive side of the puck, the team has given up the fifth-highest total of goals this season (43). The team has been decent on the penalty kill, but has often times cracked under pressure in front of their own net, leaving Robin Lehner or Chad Johnson hanging out to dry. 

As the Sabres turn the calendar to the month of November, head coach Phil Housley hopes to see his team start to turn the corner.

"I think the overall consistency in our game has to be better. We have to play a full 60-minute game. Other than that, I think our team recognizes what it's gonna take to win in this league," Housley said with Howard Simon and Jeremy White on WGR Wednesday morning. "Obviously we'd love to be 5-5-2 or 6-4-2 where we'd be closer to being in a playoff position and not in a bit of a whole, but that's fine. We gotta continue to work on our game and bring a good effort forward as we go on this road trip."

The Sabres have had some games recently where they play dominant for a majority of the game; playing with speed while out-shooting and out-chancing their opponents. However, the team gets behind the eight ball when a they get a bad bounce or a bad break, which has resulted in some disappointing losses to start the season. Housley knows that his team needs to stay mentally strong through the tough times in order to stay in contention and win some more hockey games.

"We're cracking at the wrong time and making mistakes that are costing us, whether it's in the second or third period," Housley said. "We've got to stay mentally tough throughout the whole game and take what the game gives us. Sometimes we take matters into our own hands, and I give credit to the players because they want to make a difference, but at the same time, you can't be going searching for things that aren't there."

"If we're defending at a certain point, let's defend well. If we can attack, which we all want to do and play in the offensive zone, let's attack them. But there's just key moments where we're having a breakdown that's costing us games. We knew it wasn't going to be easy coming into this season, but with the injuries early on and guys playing in different positions, it's been a little bot of a battle. We have to continue with our process and play a full 60-minute game."

If there's one area of the game that Housley has preached to his players is getting bodies in front of the net in both the offensive and defensive zones. Housley is hoping to see more bodies in front of the net, and for guys to bring some physicality to gain the competitive edge.

"I think we've gotta do a better job as a forward group of just getting there and just getting dirty, making sure we're cracking the interior where maybe we get a bounce off a shin pad, a skate, or get a second opportunity. On the reverse, I think our defense has done a pretty good job, but we still have to focus on protecting our goaltender," Housley said.

Injuries have been a problem for the Sabres early this season, especially on the blue line with some key pieces out of action. Zach Bogosian (lower-body injury) has been out of action since the preseason finale against the New York Islanders, while Josh Gorges (lower-body injury) and Nathan Beaulieu (lower-body injury) have missed some time after starting the season relatively healthy. Unfortunately, Housley could not clear up when or if we will see any of those defenseman back in the lineup in the near future.

"They're still a week-to-week situation. They're making progress and moving in the right direction, but it's just taking a little bit more time than we had planned. Those guys won't be coming on the trip."

You can listen to Housley's entire interview below: