Training camp musings as “Weekend at Northtown” concludes

While a good portion of the sport-loving population of western New York and southern Ontario prepared for the malted hops frenzy that was the Bills’ home opener, a dedicated few braved the frigid elements of the ice complex formerly known as the Pepsi Center in Amherst for the second day of Buffalo Sabres practices.

With the First Niagara Center unavailable due to the circus WWE event being in town, the Sabres were forced to spend the first two days of camp at the Northtown Center.

The camp roster was divided into three sessions. I stayed for the first two. Some things I noticed:

  • The picture to the right is Thomas Vanek and Lindy Ruff standing on the ice talking while the ice was being resurfaced. Everyone else went to the room when the zamboni came on, but the coach and star sat there and talked one-on-one the extent of the break. Speculate what you want.
  • The standout forward line of the first session was the trio of Nathan Gerbe, Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta. They played very well at times last season, but they all looked like they weren’t just on the same page, but on the same sentence in the same paragraph. Great passing and movement in drills. Seemed like they knew where each other were going to be. They’ll be a group to watch as the season approaches.
  • Jhonas Enroth has new pads. Evidence can be seen here. Although they would obviously clash and go against NHL uniform guidelines, the black and red pads he deserted last season still would be my preference.
  • As Greg Wyshynski noted on Twitter, the players can be commended for stopping and signing autographs on their way on and off the ice, even for zamboni breaks. Good to see them take a moment and make a puck bunny’s creepy autograph hound’s passive fan’s kid’s day.
  • As far as prospects go, past the Foligno-Adam-Kassian line, the one who caught my eye the most was Steven Shipley. For the most part, few stood out against the “big club” players, but Shipley showed some nice hands during 5-on-5 drills.
  • Ryan Miller was on the ice in the third session, but was there for most of the morning watching with the staff in the “press box” area, very visibly. Looking at the timelines of some of the prospects on Twitter, I’m guessing most didn’t show up until they had to. Props to Miller for making the effort.
  • It was great to see Ales Kotalik back in a Sabres uniform. His shot is still faster than the speed of light, but his passes today seemed a bit off. It’s going to take some good showings in the preseason to crack the roster, but he can do it. It’s not impossible.
  • I did not see Mike Ryan put any pucks into his own net during today’s practice. It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll even get a look in the preseason. Obviously an AHL signing, but he’s there.
  • Ville Leino skated with Tyler Ennis on one wing and Drew Stafford on the other. Some complained when the cap numbers came out that Leino has never produced enough to merit his new salary. The way Stafford and Ennis looked this morning, Leino’s not gonna have to do much to rack up points this season if they stick together. Ennis continues to be my favorite player to watch. Just insanely skilled.
  • I recommend that the Sabres build a new, state-of-the-art practice rink for any instances they can not use the arena ice. It was probably 35 degrees in that rink. Bloggers should not be subject to such unfair working conditions.
  • The first look at Robyn Regehr in blue and gold for this writer was impressive. Looked the part of the veteran of the group. Was just beating up anyone who had the puck along the wall in the corner. Can’t wait to see him in game action beating up guys on other teams.
  • Really excited to see 2011 draft pick Dan Catenacci develop. May not have super-high potential, but the kid has good skills and he’s a good skater. One to watch at camps over the next couple years.
  • Sometimes it gets lost because he doesn’t seem to shoot as much as he did when he first came up, but Jason Pominville still has one of the nicest shots I’ve ever seen. He was picking corners on the prospects in net during the second session. He’s not the dominating goal scorer he looked like he was on the verge of being but he needs to take more rips on net.

That’s about all I have. A lot of what I was going to try to remember was erased by that epic Bills game.

I’ll call that an acceptable loss.

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Posted on September 18, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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