BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Sabres players spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since they the season was paused by a Covid outbreak. While the term “frustrating” was used to describe their situation, they overall kept a positive attitude going forward.
“Of course we would like to be playing and it is a bit frustrating to take two weeks off during your season,” captain Jack Eichel said. “We’ve been off for a while and it felt like maybe we were starting to get our legs under us. It’s 10 games in and, all of a sudden, we have a two-week break, but I think everyone was pretty prepared at the beginning of the season for things like this to happen.”
“Every team I’m sure has somebody dealing with COVID or dealing with some kind of guys out of the lineup,” defenseman Colin Miller said. “We’re focused on every guy here being prepared to play.”
Players didn’t speak negatively on the way the NHL handled the situation, but instead just focused on the importance of players’ health and safety going forward.
“The league’s in a really tough spot. The teams are in a really tough spot. Everybody is,” forward Kyle Okposo said. “Nobody knows ‘Hey this virus is going to do this if this happens.’ Nobody does. All we can do is share as much information as we can and put a plan in place and be able to react.”
“Obviously the league’s trying to do what they can to keep us safe as well as the team,” Eichel said. “This is still a learning experience for all of us, the league and every team and players. This is obviously uncharted territory and something we haven’t been through. I think at times we’re learning as we go.”
Right now, the Sabres are scheduled to play 46 games in more than 80 days. Instead of complaining about the grind, the team is embracing it.
“I think if you ask any pro athlete, any athlete for that matter, ‘would you rather play or practice?’ I think 100% of them would say play,” Okposo said.
“We’re hockey players, we like playing hockey and that’s what we’re here to do, right?” Miller said. “Every team’s going to be going through the same thing.”
“Just take it as a great challenge,” Eichel said. “That’s the way to look at all the adversity thrown at you this season whether it’s playing without key players because they’ve been affected by COVID. “
Much like what General Manager Kevyn Adams said yesterday, the players are looking at this as an opportunity to come together.
“I think a situation like this has the potential to bring us closer as a group,” Eichel said. “Weirdly enough, I think could be a good thing if everyone gets back to 100% health. I think we can build off something like this. It’s been two weeks and it’s weirdly been a little bit of a reset.”
“We have to make sure that everybody is doing their part in checking in on each other and everybody’s trying to get through this pandemic just like everyone else is,” Okposo said.
Eichel said it’s an opportunity for him to take an even bigger leadership role. He said he tries to help the guys on and off the ice.
“I just want to try and help impact this team as positively as I can and help us win games,” he said.
When asked about Ralph Krueger’s current positive COVID test situation, Eichel said he hates to see his coach going through something like that, but he also thinks he’ll make a great recovery and they’ll be lucky to have him back.