Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

September 17, 2012

Sabres trying to remain upbeat as lockout practices begin

AMHERST — Now they’re officially on their own, locked out and barred from any contact with the organization. About 12 Buffalo Sabres regulars skated with some prospects Monday morning inside the Northtown Center, the first of possibly dozens of practices without a regular coaching staff.

The team employees who had recently assisted with informal skates have left. Other than the Sabres logo on their jerseys, something the players could soon ditch, the symbol has almost vanished.

The cold, dark reality of the three-day work stoppage is beginning to hit the Sabres.

“It is a lot different,” captain Jason Pominville said after skating. “No trainers here to help us out. No workouts at the arena. It’s on our own. We got to figure out ways to keep ourselves ready.”

The Sabres are trying to replicate regular practices by having former teammates serve as unofficial coaches. Andrew Peters and Jay McKee, who skated in full uniform, ran Monday’s session and plan to keep putting their friends through drills McKee designed.

McKee coached in Rochester last season before being let go. Peters, a fighter who often played sparingly over six seasons, has no coaching experience.

But Peters recently called Pominville and asked if he could help. The ex-tough guy remembers structure missing from workouts during the 2004-05 lockout.

“I’m not a coach, but I enjoy doing it,” said Peters, who retired in 2011 and misses the camaraderie. “I still have a good rapport with the guys. … It’s a lot of fun to be able to help out. I’m being serious about it. I know Jay’s being serious about. I want to help contribute to these guys staying in shape during this lockout.

“This isn’t fun and games. This is serious. … I miss being around the game. I miss being around the guys. Just being in the locker room today having a coffee and chatting with the guys and joking around was like going back to the old days. … I was excited when I got up today to come and do this.”

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