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January 1, 2018

Phil Housley

New York, New York

Rangers - 3, Sabres - 2 (OT)

MODERATOR: We're joined by Sabres head coach Phil Housley.

Q. Your thoughts on the team's growth as the game went on, obviously the atmosphere and conditions in the first period or whatever the Rangers were doing, but the way your team seemed to grow in the game and really start to play the way you wanted them to play?
COACH HOUSLEY: First of all, I've got to thank the New York Police Department providing us that nice escort to get to the building and all they do.

But what a great atmosphere for our team and for our fans. We started the game -- I think we weren't really moving our feet that well and we took an early penalty, which I think put us on our heels.

It got them some momentum. But after we finally started to play and got pucks in deep and started to forecheck, we started to come, and the second period was really solid for us. Third period could have gone either way, but I'm really proud of our guys.

It's unfortunate that stick penalty had to happen. But I am really proud of the way our guys performed tonight. Because, you know, when you look at the game and it's 2-0 and it's 14-4 shots in New York Rangers favor, you could have easily dipped the other way. But our guys dug in deep and found a way to get back in the game, and then they tied the game early in the third there, which was great. And we responded in the right way.

Q. With the season that you're having, how much easier has it been coming to the rink these past few weeks with the resolve that your guys have been showing?
COACH HOUSLEY: A lot easier, believe me. Earlier on in the season there was a lot of struggles. And a lot of the games we were in were one-goal games or were even. And talked about it before that we were just cracking at the wrong time, making a critical mistake at the wrong time. And they were tough. And it was tough on our group.

It was tough on our hockey club, our coaches, because we kept trying to grind it out and try to find different areas that we needed to improve in our team.

But just recently, if you look -- I think we've got nine points out of 12 games now. And we're just playing a better brand of hockey. I think you can see the confidence growing in our guys, which could have been that way early in the season if those games are flipped.

But those are tough times. You really learn a lot about yourself as a player and as a team, even as a coaching staff. But I really like the way we're playing right now. You can see it out there that there's times when we bend but we don't break, which is a credit to our team.

Q. You took their speed away from them. They came out flying. But seemed like you took their speed away from them. How did you accomplish that so then you could get into your game?
COACH HOUSLEY: I think the bottom line is I thought we were playing a faster game. We were on our toes in the first period, I think, maybe we were a little awestruck of the situation and the game. And when we dug in and we started making the right choices, making simple plays. And in effect it got our feet moving and we looked faster. And we were getting on the forecheck, getting some offensive zone time, some really good looks.

We rang the crossbar there by Scandy which could have been a turning point as well. But those guys know that when we do make the right choices and play the right way, you can see how effective we are.

Q. Just talk about how thin a margin between winning and losing there is where just before the penalty you guys have a 2-on-1 and it sticked off McDonagh's stick and just went through his legs. Just that little margin could have been the difference between winning and losing.
COACH HOUSLEY: You just said it. And you look in our overtime games, I mean, even today, just in the past, we've had opportunities and looks where it's a breakaway, it's a penalty shot, it's a 2-on-1. It's a glorious opportunity and it comes back, and it's that old saying -- you get a good look at one end and it comes back. And we just need to get more reserved in that area, have the urgency to come back and play solid defense.

Today was just one of those tough bounces where a stick gets caught in a skate and it's unfortunate. Credit the Rangers, because they got the power play goal to win it in overtime.

But I think our guys, if all those overtime games, if you take four or five of them, we're probably above .500 if we finish on those looks.

Q. You talked about the battle of your team reversing that game. How much does the toughness level of your defense still have to improve down low? You saw a couple of goals today down low where you didn't win the battle and the puck ends up in your net.
COACH HOUSLEY: You look at those goals, I think there's a lot of things that add up to those goals as well. It's the D zone coverage not finishing a check, maybe not pinning a guy and helping, getting support from one of our other forwards or defensemen in a battle.

And certainly I think our D have come a long way and Risto scored another goal tonight, which is good for our D corps. But we're getting better, we're trying to play well in our own end and down low and boxing out guys and tying up sticks.

I thought they did a pretty good job, especially against a team that has a lot of speed. I thought we kept their speed in front of us. We talked about -- because they want to stretch the zone on you. And so I can't really fault our guys. I thought they did a good job today.

Q. What was it like playing a home game here in Citi Field when you're in front of what was mainly a Ranger crowd or Ranger fans?
COACH HOUSLEY: I didn't hear the Ranger fans. (Laughter) just look at the whole Winter Classic and how the NHL puts it and just to be able to be fortunate for our organization to be part of it and represent our fans back home. It was just a great experience. I know if you talked to everybody in that room today, obviously would have liked to have a result be different, but it was just a great experience.

I think the fans got their money's worth. It was a great hockey game against a good opponent. And it's unfortunate somebody had to lose.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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