Despite his team missing the playoffs for a third time in five seasons, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula maintained his faith in his current personnel - namely general manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff.
Buffalo begins its quest to return to the postseason Sunday when it hosts the Philadelphia Flyers, who have ended the Sabres' attempts to win a long-awaited title in each of the last two seasons.
Pegula opened his pocketbook before last season to sign Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino and also took on Robyn Regehr's hefty contract from Calgary. Buffalo's well-financed owner, though, got very little return on his investment as the Sabres finished with 89 points - four shy of a playoff berth.
"It wasn't a good feeling at all at the end of last year," defenseman Tyler Myers said. "And I think feeling that way at the end of last year is going to motivate each guy in this room that much more to not feel that way again."
Instead of changing direction, Pegula gave Regier a contract extension and the two have stuck with essentially the same personnel. One of the only major changes came when Buffalo traded center Derek Roy to Dallas for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy.
Ott had 39 points for the Stars in 2011-12, his second-best total in any season, and should provide some grittiness as he has at least 135 penalty minutes in each of the past five campaigns.
That quality was missing at times last season in front of former Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Ryan Miller, who missed time with a concussion after being run over by Boston's Milan Lucic on Nov. 12.
At one point last season, Buffalo (39-32-11) was without nine regulars.
"We went through everything, the good, the bad and the ugly,'' said Ruff, the NHL's longest active coach with one team. "We've cleared the air this summer. I think that's a good place to be. I think the true test, though, is when you get knocked down a little bit to hold that standard. That will be our true test."
The Sabres will be tested by a Flyers team that's eager to avoid back-to-back losses to open a season for the first time since 2008-09. Philadelphia gave up two early goals to Pittsburgh in a 3-1 defeat Saturday, and new captain Claude Giroux tallied the Flyers' only score in the opening minute of the second period.
"After the first 13, 14 minutes, we seemed to play more of a style we're looking for. We had a lot of shots, opportunities, but didn't capitalize on them," said coach Peter Laviolette, whose team went 0 for 5 on the power play.
Philadelphia won't get a very warm welcome in its road opener. Buffalo fans could be revved up after seeing the Flyers end their team's hopes in each of the past two campaigns.
The Sabres, who have never won a Stanley Cup since joining the league in 1970-71, lost in seven games to the Flyers in the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals and were eliminated from playoff contention last season with a 2-1 loss April 5.
Buffalo hasn't advanced past the first round of the postseason since reaching the East finals in 2007.
The Flyers swept last season's four matchups with the Sabres and recorded a pair of one-goal wins in Buffalo. Giroux finished off his team's 5-4 overtime victory Dec. 7 with his only goal in the season series.
Giroux, though, had 10 assists over those four games against Buffalo after recording eight in the playoff series. Miller was 0-2-1 with a 5.24 goals-against average last season versus Philadelphia.
Leino is questionable for this game because of a leg injury. He had two goals against his former team last season.
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