BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Sabres coach Ron Rolston is reminded of the changes taking place in downtown Buffalo every day he heads into work.
There's a construction site across the street from the team's arena, where Sabres owner Terry Pegula's HarborCenter hotel and entertainment complex is being erected. Then there's the major overhaul the Sabres themselves have been undergoing over the past eight months.
They're both works in progress, and also reflect the potential of a brighter future in Buffalo.
"I would say it's a good correlation and analogy," Rolston said. "It's both out front and in the arena."
Rolston is part of the Sabres' transformation in replacing longtime coach Lindy Ruff, who was fired in February.
The changes didn't end there during what became a tumultuous, lockout-shortened season that ended with Buffalo missing the playoffs for the fourth time in six years.
Before the season was over, the Sabres purged much of their old guard — including captain Jason Pominville — as part of a youth movement to shake up what had been an aging, high-priced and under-achieving core.
And more changes could still be store, with goalie Ryan Miller and forward Thomas Vanek's futures uncertain beyond this season. Both are entering the final years of their contracts, and the Sabres haven't ruled out trading one or both.
That's left Rolston tempering his early expectations of an opening-day roster that could feature as many as seven rookies, including 18-year-old defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
"You're probably not going to see the potential of our team unfold for a couple of months," Rolston said. "But everyone is excited about it. And everyone has expectations that we've got what we need here now."
Here's five things to watch out for as the Sabres prepare to open the season at Detroit on Oct. 2:
MILLER'S TIME UP? Uncertain about his future after 10 seasons in Buffalo, Miller is renting after selling his home this past summer.
Miller called it a pre-emptive business decision, figuring he could attract better offers while he's still in Buffalo rather than try to sell the home if he's traded.
Miller hasn't closed the door on re-signing with Buffalo, where he holds franchise records for wins (269) and games played by a goalie (500).
"I have to be professional enough just to do the job. I'm able to do a job in a city I'm familiar with, a city I'm very much at home. I like to be in Buffalo. I like the people," Miller said. "So this isn't a bad situation."