Devon Levi may be shouldering a ton of pressure as the hungry Buffalo Sabres’ projected No. 1 goaltender in 2023-24, but the 21-year-old is feeling “super excited” ahead of his first full season in the NHL.
“I can’t wait to see the guys again and to go out and compete with them,” he said in an interview with The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski. “I’m really just focusing on myself. It doesn’t matter if I’m going into a game or into practice or training camp. … I’m just doing my best to get my game to be the best it can be and keep working on it, keep improving.
“I don’t think you could ever be your best. There’s always more, you can keep pushing that level. It’s like building up your character in a video game. Just keep leveling up.”
Buffalo leaned on Levi heavily at the end of the 2022-23 campaign with the team in the thick of the wild-card race. He started seven games – many of which had dire implications for the Sabres’ playoff hopes – and went 5-2-0 with a .905 save percentage and 2.94 goals against average.
Levi was in net for the Sabres’ 6-2 defeat to the New Jersey Devils on April 11, which officially knocked Buffalo out of the playoff picture. He’d played the night before in a spectacular 3-2 shootout victory against the dangerous New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden, but Levi said he still thinks about that crushing defeat in New Jersey.
“It definitely left a sour taste, but it’s a lot of motivation to knowing how close we were in that it’s possible. It’s right there,” he said. “We’re really close and the organization has been building up to this for a lot of years now. … It was like you’re a baby with candy in your hands and it was snatched away right before you’re about to eat it.”
The Sabres ended up finishing one point behind the Florida Panthers for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Levi isn’t the only Sabre feeling motivated ahead of the new campaign. In August, young defenseman Owen Power said he and his teammates are “confident” heading into 2023-24 and that he thinks jockeying for a playoff spot in a crowded Atlantic Division is “going to be fun.”
The Sabres are looking to snap a 12-season playoff drought. Puck drops on their pursuit on Oct. 12 against the Rangers.
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