PITTSBURGH — Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams is getting an up-close look at the mess he has on his hands.
Adams stepped in as head coach Thursday night against Pittsburgh after interim coach Don Granato and assistant Matt Ellis were placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, the latest strange turn for the league’s worst team.
“For me, I’m comfortable,” Adams said about 90 minutes before the Sabres took a 15-game winless streak onto the ice against the Penguins. “Obviously, I’ve been watching every game, and with the team all season. I know the team really well, the personnel, I know the tendencies.”
The 46-year-old Adams played 10 seasons for six teams in the NHL before retiring in 2008. He spent two years as an assistant coach with the Sabres from 2011-13 and became general manager last summer.
“Obviously, been behind a bench before,” Adams said. “I think the players also know in these situations this is an opportunity for them to take on adversity in their own way and be better for it, right?”
There’s nowhere to go but up.
Buffalo’s 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night extended its winless streak to 15 games, the NHL’s longest since the shootout was introduced during the 2005-06 season.
It’s telling of where the Sabres are at that their best player Wednesday was 31-year-old journeyman goaltender Dustin Tokarski. Tokarski stopped 37 shots in his first NHL start since December 2015, a start required after Carter Hutton was sent back to Buffalo to be evaluated for a lower-body injury.
Buffalo has been outscored 63-30 during the slide.
Adams’ appearance on the bench could be short-lived. The team summoned Seth Appert from it’s American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester, New York. Adams said there’s a chance Appert could arrive at some point during the game.
Adams did say that both Granato — who missed two months last fall while dealing with severe pneumonia and undisclosed complications — and Ellis are “doing great, they both feel good.”
Granato’s health issues are just a part of a weird ride that included head coach Ralph Krueger getting fired last week amid as the losses piled up and star Jack Eichel being limited to 21 games due to injuries.
“Look, you get up in the morning no matter what job you’re doing and you do your best, you face the day,” Adams said. “My philosophy is that you just take everything head on, you do your best, you be honest, you put your head down and do the work. Some days have been extremely challenging, some days have just been challenging.”