Play connected.

It's a phrase Jack Eichel and his Buffalo Sabres teammates can't miss. On this night, it's written on a sign adorning the door to the visitors dressing room at Madison Square Garden. It's talked about wherever the Sabres go thanks to new coach Ralph Krueger.

"That's a big message from Ralph, being connected, being on the same page," said Eichel, the Sabres captain. "It's more than just being on the ice. It's off the ice, locker room, weight room, everything we do we try to be together as much as we can as a group. It's important."

It's working.

The Sabres, who have the longest Stanley Cup Playoff drought in the League at eight seasons, have been one of the surprising success stories early in the season.

They're first in the League with nine wins and tied for first with the Washington Capitals with 19 points.

"I just think the connection between the room and the coaching staff has been a really good one so far," Eichel said. "The guys, we have some confidence in our game right now."

But they're not getting ahead of themselves. That is a significant step in maturity for the Sabres from last season.

The Sabres were in first place in the NHL on Nov. 28 last season after defeating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in overtime for their 10th straight win the night before. They were 17-6-2 through 25 games, good for 36 points, red-hot and feeling invincible even though only three of their 10 consecutive wins came in regulation.