Housley: 'Our work habits have been good'

October 19, 2017

After a grueling four-game road trip out to the west coast, the Buffalo Sabres are back in Buffalo to gear up for a matchup with the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night at KeyBank Center.

The struggling Sabres came out of the road trip with their first and only win of the season so far, and grabbed three of a possible eight points. The team continued to show some growing pains out west, but had some bright spots in all four games.

On Tuesday, the Sabres closed out their trip with their first ever visit to Las Vegas, Nevada to face the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Buffalo fell behind 4-1 in the third period, only to come back with three goals in the final ten minutes to force overtime. However, Golden Knights forward David Perron sunk the Sabres with about a minute to play in overtime to hand Buffalo another loss.

The Golden Knights continue to impress the hockey world, setting a National Hockey League record for the best start from an expansion team in league history. While Vegas certainly earned the win on Tuesday night, Sabres head coach Phil Housley knows his team did not get out to the best start.

"It wasn't so much about what they were doing, it was what we weren't doing. They're a quick team, they work hard. They have a lot to prove as an expansion team," Housley said with Jeremy White on WGR Thursday morning. "I thought we finally came ready to play in the third period and turned things around. We had 37 attempts and 19 shots in that third period, but it was a little bit too late trying to chase the game."

The Sabres are all-too familiar with the type of start they have had to this season. Buffalo has not had a winning record in the first seven games of a season since the 2011-12 season.

It was a promising start to the season as the Sabres played very well in the home opener against the Montreal Canadiens. Buffalo played with speed and moved the puck with efficiency, but ended up falling short in a shootout. After two miserable games against the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, Housley was hoping for a good response heading out west.

"I think our work level was extremely high in the game against Montreal. I thought we dipped a little bit in that area because maybe we were focusing on our system play. We had to take a step back and focus on our work," Housley said. "Coming into this road trip, I thought we didn't get what we wanted on San Jose, but really liked the work level. We fixed the mistakes, and we go to [Los Angeles] and played an outstanding game. 5-on-5 we were the better team; it came down to special teams, but we were moving in the right direction. Finally, it all came together in Anaheim. I thought we had a 200-foot game from end-to-end, really controlled the game well, and I think it just came down to preparation."

"I think our work habits have been good. We have to continue to enforce those areas as we approach practice because that's really where you fine tune your game. That comes down to individuals too, but as we move forward, we'll continue to work on that."

One are of focus for the Sabres since the offseason has been the defense and how they can improve the overall play from the blue line. The Sabres added players like Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu, Victor Antipin and Matt Tennyson to try and improve, arguably, one of the worst units in the NHL last season.

So far, the defense has struggled to find some comfort in Housley's system. There has been some flashes of brilliance from the back end in some games, but Housley wants to see it on a consistent basis.

"Our defense, as a whole, needs to simplify their game. When we have opportunities to execute, whether it's in a break out or a neutral zone re-group where we can transition the other way, we need to continue to get better in that area. When we do it well and we work together as a group, you can see the results against L.A. and Anaheim with how we can break out and how we can transition. We looked fast and played fast."

As for injuries, Housley gave an update on the status of forward Zemgus Girgensons, who left Tuesday's game in Vegas after blocking a shot while working on the penalty kill.

"The [penalty kill] did a tremendous job in the first two periods of that game, and there's guys putting themselves in front of pucks and blocking shots. It was unfortunate that the shot hit [Zemgus] in the lower-body area where there wasn't a lot of padding.  Everything's okay with him. He'll be a day-to-day decision at this point."

You can listen to Housley's entire conversation with Jeremy below: