TORONTO – The Buffalo Sabres played shorthanded in their last game. It looks like they’ll have a full crew ready to go Friday night.
Four players – Ville Leino, Marcus Foligno, Linus Omark and Alexander Sulzer – missed Buffalo’s game on Monday with the flu. Buffalo played the game with 16 skaters and won 2-1 in overtime after the puck fell into goaltender Mike Smith’s pants and he inadvertently backed up across the goal line.
Coming off the three-day holiday break, the team has had some much-needed time to recuperate. All of the sick players were back on the ice for the team’s morning skate at Air Canada Centre as the Sabres prepare for their matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m.
Omark, whom the team acquired in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 19, finally got his first practice in with Buffalo.
“It was good to be back on the ice,” he said. “I had a couple days off now and I’ve been sick so I’m excited to play tonight.”
In his Sabres debut against Boston on Saturday, he played 12:57 and was a minus-1. He also committed a penalty early in the game that led to a Bruins power-play goal. Omark said he’s hoping to rebound from that game.
“I have to work hard. When the chances come, you have to take it. I guess [I can] work harder,” he said. “I had a bad start and now I’ve been sick. That’s better, so keep going from there.”
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan will also be looking for a better effort from Omark.
“Not too times you get too many chances. He’s a young guy but he’s got to play with a lot more energy than he did,” Nolan said. “But we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt the first time with jet lag and getting to a new team and having the flu, but after this, he’s got to play with a lot more energy.”
Nolan said he’ll likely start Omark on a line with Leino and Foligno.
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for Buffalo. He is 31-15-1 all-time against Toronto with a 2.44 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. Miller has more wins (31) and shutouts (4) against the Maple Leafs than any other team.
Sulzer and center Cody Hodgson are expected to be scratched. Hodgson, according to Nolan, is still “a ways away” from playing after sustaining an upper-body injury on Dec. 19. He skated on his own at the end of practice.
John Scott is expected to play in his 200th NHL game and he may continue to see an increased role on special teams. With the Sabres short-staffed last game, the coaching staff had him park in front of the net on the power play to try and drum up some chances. Nolan said Scott might be in that spot again against Toronto.
“You look at a lot of power-play goals, it’s a lot of just shooting at the net and creating screens,” Nolan said. “There’s no bigger guy that we have on this team outside of [Tyler] Myers who can make a big screen in front of the goaltender.”
Drew Stafford left the game Monday night midway through the second period after he was called for a high elbow on defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Stafford said he has not heard from the League regarding any sort of hearing. Stafford received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the infraction.
“That was tough. I felt [worse] because of the short bench,” Stafford said. “It was tough enough as it is having the three lines and we were playing a certain kind of game. And then a call like that happens, it was tough. Fortunately, the win trumps it all so that felt good with the boys battling back. That was a gutsy win so that was fun to watch.”
In that win, the Sabres played the game with only three forward lines. They utilized a defensive scheme that Nolan may have borrowed from his other coaching job with the Latvian national team.
“We had nine forwards and we wanted to try and save our legs a bit,” Sabres forward Matt Moulson said. “So that was our version of the Latvian Wall.”
This will be the fourth of five meetings between the Sabres and Maple Leafs this season. The home team has won the last five games played between the two clubs.
Overall, Buffalo is 4-0-1 in their last five home games, but hasn’t picked up on a victory on the road since Nov. 8 when they defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in the shootout. Moulson hopes that’ll change Friday night.
“For some reason, we’ve been playing well at home and not getting as many victories on the road. I think we just have to play that smart game, not turning pucks over, making sure we’re limiting quality chances and continue to work.”
The Sabres had a pretty lively morning skate that at times resembled a more traditional practice. Coming off the break, Stafford said that keeping things “extra simple” and not turning the puck over against Toronto should help them earn two points.
“I think if we do that and worry about how we’re playing, that’ll translate into a good effort. We’ve had good efforts, but we’re looking for a solid game on the road," he said. "Hopefully guys are rested up. We had a good morning skate to get the rust off a little bit and get ready to go.”
In addition to their opponents on the ice, the Buffalo Sabres are battling the flu.
Four or five members of the Buffalo Sabres are ill according to interim coach Ted Nolan, including recently acquired forward Linus Omark.
Nolan wouldn’t confirm who else might be sick. Omark, Marcus Foligno, Ville Leino, Alexander Sulzer and Henrik Tallinder were among the players absent from the team’s optional morning skate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ones under the weather.
The Sabres are scheduled to host the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center and it’s possible that some of the sick players could miss the game. It could take some real feats of strength for the sick players to be well enough to play.
“We’re hoping that they’re ready to go. Four or five of them called in this morning, couldn’t make it out of bed,” Nolan said. “So we’re hoping by gametime they’ll feel a little bit better.”
TED NOLAN PRESS CONFERENCE
Nolan said he noticed the team seemed a little sluggish in their 4-1 loss to the Bruins on Saturday. By Sunday, it was apparent that the flu was spreading.
“I kind of felt something was up with the team because we weren’t as strong. We’re not the strongest team, but at least we’re battling for the pucks. But I thought we were knocked off them pretty easy,” Nolan said. “They didn’t have that certain jump. We had it for certain periods of time, but we didn’t have it as consistently as we have the last three or four games. I kind of felt something was up. Yesterday was an indicator of that for sure.”
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for Buffalo.
Pysyk re-joins the Sabres after being assigned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Dec. 17. He played in three games for the Amerks during his time in Rochester, recording one assist.
Larsson returns to Buffalo after being assigned to Rochester on Nov. 20. He played in 13 games for the Amerks, notching nine points (2+7). He started the season with the Sabres and had one assist in 17 games.
Larsson did not participate in the morning skate, but Pysyk did take the ice.
JOHAN LARSSON INTERVIEW
Both players said they tried to remain optimistic when they were told they were being sent down.
“I played a lot, so that’s the most important [thing] for me. It’s been a little up and down playing, but I feel good,” Larsson said. “You always want to be here. But sometimes it’s good to get your confidence back, go down there and play a lot and in every situation.”
Nolan looks for Larsson to bring a solid work ethic with him to the Sabres lineup.
“We talked to the coach down in Rochester and one thing we heard and one of the reasons we brought him up is he’s competing hard,” Nolan said. “We all know his skills set. Skill is something, but if you don’t work, if skill doesn’t work, it’s no good. He’s working. He’s competing a little harder so that was a good sign.”
MARK PYSYK INTERVIEW
Pysyk has averaged 19:55 of ice time in 31 NHL games this season. He’s been on the top pairing and has also found himself as a healthy scratch. He said he spent his brief time in Rochester to work on bringing more consistency to his game.
“I don’t think you can ever be surprised. Obviously I’m in a position here where I can be down or up at any moment,” he said. “I just took the opportunity. It was fun to get down there, see all the guys from last year again. Played three games down there. They challenged us to be the best guys down there and that’s how we all took it. Just went down there and did the best we could.”
Buffalo sent defenseman Chad Ruhwedel back to Rochester.
Kevin Porter was placed on injured reserve after sustaining an injury Saturday. Nolan did not provide a timetable for how long Porter may be out.
Nolan said Cody Hodgson, who is out with an upper-body injury, is still “a ways away” from returning. None of them were on the ice with the team Monday morning.
Morning Skate Participants
BOSTON – Linus Omark joined the Buffalo Sabres in Boston on Friday after being traded from the Edmonton Oilers organization on Thursday.
Indeed, he’ll be in the lineup Saturday night when the Sabres take on the Bruins at 7 p.m. at TD Garden.
“You can say that from the beginning when I signed there, I wanted to play in the NHL and it was pretty tough,” he said. “They have some really good forwards, top six there and I never really got the chance this year. So I’m glad I ended up here.”
Omark had 29 points in 29 games with the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League. He’s excited for the chance to play in the NHL again.
“It’s been going pretty good this season. They gave me a lot of ice time down there and there are good coaches down there. They helped me a lot,” he said. “I got some confidence from playing down there and hopefully I can bring it here, too.”
He said he prefers playing on the wing and says he’s usually on the left side. He’ll start with Kevin Porter and Matt Ellis. Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said that because the team is playing well and coming off back-to-back wins, he doesn’t want to tinker with the lineup too much.
“Right now, we’re playing much better so to break up some combinations just to squeeze him in would be difficult,” Nolan said. “We’ll keep him on the so-called fourth line right now and we’ll see how we goes, give him some minutes. As we go forward here, we’ll see how it all adjusts.”
The lineup spot opens up because Cody Hodgson is expected to be out for a few weeks with an upper-body injury. Brian Flynn will remain at center between Marcus Foligno and Matt D’Agostini. Flynn moved up to that line after Hodgson left the game on Thursday.
The other change to the lineup will be in goal. Nolan said Jhonas Enroth will get the start for Buffalo.
Over the past two seasons, whenever the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres have played each other, John Scott has been in Buffalo’s lineup.
That might be the case again Thursday night when the two clubs meet at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said the 6-foot-8 left wing will be a game-time decision. Buffalo is coming off a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and received quality minutes from all four lines. Scott was a healthy scratch for that game.
Since the coaching staff may not want to disrupt the chemistry the forwards are developing, they may try Scott on defense.
“This will be a real game-time decision whether we put him in. We’ve been working with him the last couple games,” Nolan said after the team’s optional skate Thursday morning. “Everybody played well last [game] so it depends on the mood before the game, I guess.”
TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE FOR TONIGHT'S GAME
Scott did some defensive work with Chad Ruhwedel at practice Wednesday, but since the team has 13 forwards and seven defensemen, that wasn’t unusual. Scott’s practiced on defense at various points in time this season to give the team an even number on the blue line. He did some additional one-on-one skating drills Wednesday with assistant coach Joe Sacco as well.
He skated with the defensemen during the morning skate Thursday and it’s actually a pretty familiar spot for him. He played a lot of defense in his career before he signed with Buffalo in July 2012.
“I think he looks good,” Nolan said. “Defense, you just have to move the puck up or if you’re in trouble, ring it around the boards. He’s a big man that can cover a lot of ice and he’s an intelligent guy too, so he should be able to pick it up.”
Nolan did not give any clues as to which player may sit if Scott dresses, but he did say that no other lineup changes are expected. Chad Ruhwedel will be the team’s healthy scratch on defense. Ryan Miller will get the start between the pipes.
Miller is 25-9-7 against the Bruins in his career with a 2.57 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. He hasn’t lost consecutive starts to Boston since the 2008-09 season, posting a 13-4-3 record in his 20 games against the Bruins since those losses. The Bruins defeated Miller and the Sabres 5-2 in their first meeting this season on Oct. 23.
Against the Jets, the Sabres rolled four lines and scored four goals in regulation, which tied a season-high. Nolan shook up the lines a few games ago and it appears as if the new combinations are starting to click.
“We wanted a balanced attack and then all of a sudden, you needed some more minutes from the fourth line last time. They gave us that,” Nolan said. “So if you’re going to play with some energy, you have to have four lines going.”
The Sabres are hoping that they can build off that effort going into a game against an Atlantic Division rival in the Bruins. Sabres forward Marcus Foligno, who scored against Winnipeg, sees the matchup as a good measuring stick for his club.
“It’s fun playing that team. They’ve got some really talented players that you can compare yourself to,” he said. “At the same time, to beat Boston, it would be really good for our team confidence-wise. It’s going to be a tough task tonight, but I’m sure all the guys are on board for that.”
Since president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine and interim coach Ted Nolan took over last month, they’ve made moves to stock the Buffalo Sabres roster with more veteran players. Younger players have been sent to either the American Hockey League or back to juniors to gain more experience.
On Saturday, they called up Matt Ellis from the Rochester Americans of the AHL. Tuesday morning, the Sabres made room on the roster for center Kevin Porter and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. Forward Luke Adam and defensemen Brayden McNabb and Mark Pysyk were sent down to Rochester.
While Ruhwedel has less experience than the other two call-ups, Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said all three have at least one important trait in common.
“They’re character type of guys,” Nolan said after the team’s optional morning skate at First Niagara Center. “When you’re turning around an organization like this, you need good character guys to help some of the younger guys mature and play better and also fill in those gaps so the guys in Rochester get some really quality minutes without missing too much here.”
Porter started the season with the Sabres, but was sent down to the AHL in late October when the team found itself in a numbers crunch. When the front office put LaFontaine in charge and started putting a more experienced lineup on the ice, Porter saw it as an opportunity to earn another call-up.
“I know they were going to give guys shots and they wanted to give some other young guys a shot,” he said. “I thought there might be a chance if I played well. That’s what I was focusing on was trying to play well and just work hard.”
Porter said he was in the meeting with the Sabres penalty killers, so it’s likely that he’ll see some time on special teams if Buffalo goes down a man. The 27-year-old center recorded six goals and four assists in 13 games in Rochester.
“Confidence is a huge thing for a lot of guys, especially for me. So to go down there and score some goals and get in some different situations, some penalty kill, some power play, that was good,” he said. “That was good for my confidence and to come back up here.”
WATCH: KEVIN PORTER INTERVIEW
Ruhwedel, 23, joins the Sabres for his first call-up of the season after being assigned to Rochester at the close of training camp. In his first full professional season, he doesn’t have quite the same amount of experience as the other recent call-ups, but has been grooming his game in the AHL. In 26 games with the Amerks this season, he’s racked up 14 points (4+10) and 12 penalty minutes.
He’s expected to be a healthy scratch against the Jets along with forward John Scott. When Ruhwedel does get the chance to play, he’ll look to make the most of it.
“Just prove myself, show what I have to give. I’m just going to work hard, play hard, play simple,” he said. “The rest is up to them. I’m just going to control what I can.”
An undrafted free agent out of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Ruhwedel played seven games with the Sabres at the end of the 2012-13 season to start his professional career. He signed a two-year, entry-level contract with Buffalo in April.
Nolan said that center Cody Hodgson, who has missed the past two games, will be ready to go against the Jets. Hodgson did not take part in the optional morning skate. He worked in practice Monday with wings Marcus Foligno and Matt D’Agostini.
Jamie McBain has had expanded role beside Christian Ehrhoff while Alexander Sulzer has been on injured reserve. However, with Sulzer set to return Tuesday night, Nolan said he’ll mix up the defensive pairings. That likely means Sulzer will move back with Ehrhoff and McBain will skate with Mike Weber. Henrik Tallinder and Tyler Myers would make up the other pair.
The Americans will participate in the Spengler Cup, a six-team tournament in Davos, Switzerland from Dec. 26-31. The tournament, hosted by HC Davos of Switzerland’s elite National League A, will also feature CSKA Moscow of the KHL, a team representing Canada, Czech Extraliga’s HC Vitkovice Steel and Geneve-Servette, also of National League A.
Nolan said that Pysyk, McNabb and Adam will be given the chance to compete in that tournament and hopefully help the Amerks win it.
“There’s nothing like winning,” Nolan said. “And winning breeds winning.”
WATCH: TED NOLAN'S PRESS CONFERENCE
Ellis sees them joining Rochester as a great opportunity that will help their development. He’s played with each of them over the past few seasons.
“For those guys, it’s going to be huge,” he said. “They’re going to be counted upon. They’re going to become a big piece of that hockey club and real heartbeat of that team. They all have bright futures ahead of them. I think for them, it’s just about going down, playing, enjoying the game and keep building themselves to get back and stay at this level.”
The plan is for Pysyk to be back with the Sabres once the Amerks return to North America.
“He’s going to be a different send-down. He’s not going down for a long time. He’s just going down for a few days and then they’re going over to the Spengler Cup and he’ll join us right after that,” Nolan said. “But we’re going to try to find the best way to get him some quality minutes and develop him maturity wise. He’s not a big guy yet. As we go into the season, the games are going to tougher and tougher so we want to make sure he’s in a good position.”
OTTAWA – The Buffalo Sabres enter the second half of their home-and-home series against the Ottawa Senators after winning the first game in the shootout Tuesday night in Buffalo. When the two clubs take the ice again Thursday night at Canadian Tire Centre at 7:30 p.m., the Sabres will be without one of their top offensive players.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said after the team’s morning skate that center Cody Hodgson will likely miss the game due to injury. Ville Leino, a healthy scratch Tuesday, will take his spot in the lineup.
“Cody Hodgson took a little bit of a banging last game, so he probably won’t go tonight,” Nolan said.
Nolan hopes the injury will only keep Hodgson out for one game. Hodgson was on the ice with the team during the morning skate.
Hodgson is second on the team in scoring with 18 points (8+10). Matt Moulson leads the team with 10 goals and 10 assists this season and has four goals and seven assists since being acquired from the New York Islanders 18 games ago.
The only other expected change to the Sabres roster will take place on the blueline. Defenseman Mike Weber will be back in. Brayden McNabb will sit.
Weber has three points (1+2) in his last three games against the Senators. His seven points (1+6) in 18 career games against the Senators are his highest total against any team.
Defenseman Alexander Sulzer skated with the team, but remains on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. He's missed the past three games.
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal against Ottawa’s Craig Anderson. Miller is 7-3-1 in his last 11 road games at Ottawa with a .939 save percentage and a 1.85 goals against average.
One thing Nolan liked about his club’s game in the 2-1 shootout win was the effort the players showed.
“The one I think is the way we competed. It seemed like the guys were having fun,” he said. “They were battling. They were playing hockey versus just sitting down and hoping and waiting for things to happen. They were actually playing and it was a good game. Whether the result was the way it was, it was just to watch the process and how guys are starting to work.”
Sabres left wing Luke Adam knows that Buffalo will have to stay on its toes as soon as the puck drops. The Sabres are looking for consecutive wins against the Senators for the first time since they won four in a row from Feb. 25, to Nov. 11, 2011.
“It’s not a bad thing to play a team back-to-back, especially with us coming out on top the first night. We know they’re going to be real hungry,” he said. “You never want to lose two in a row, especially two in a row to the same team. We’re going to be ready right off the start here.”
This home-and-home series is the seventh between these two teams and the first since Feb.7 and Feb. 11, 2009.
On Thursday, 19-year-old rookie forward Zemgus Girgensons scored both Buffalo’s goal in regulation and the goal that decided the shootout. He enters the game on Thursday on a career-best three-game point streak (2+1).
He played on the top line with Tyler Ennis at center and Moulson on the left wing. Both Girgensons and Moulson have enjoyed playing with Ennis in the middle.
“It’s awesome. I love it. He hangs onto the puck and he makes ridiculous moves throughout the whole game,” Girgensons said. “It’s fun to play with him.”
Moulson said he thinks they’ll continue to develop chemistry moving forward. He liked the line’s offensive opportunities and looks forward to turning more than a few passes from Ennis into goals.
“I thought we played pretty well. We had a lot of chances to put the puck in the back of the net. There were some good stops, some defensive plays that kept us from that. But [Girgensons] got the one big goal for us so it was a lot of fun to play with those guys,” Moulson said. “Tyler likes to pass it more often than not so I always enjoy playing with a guy like that. And [Girgensons has] got great speed and gets in on the forecheck, plays aggressive. I think the more we play together, the better we’ll get.”
Girgensons was also involved in a play Tuesday night that resulted in a suspension. The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Wednesday that Senators defenseman Jared Cowen has been suspended two games for illegally hitting Girgensons in the head with 1:53 remaining in regulation.
The fact that Girgensons was not injured on the play and later scored the shootout winner factored in to NHL vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan's decision, as did Cowen's lack of a disciplinary history.
No penalty was called on the play.
Girgensons said he does not hold a grudge against Cowen.
“It’s hockey. We played a game where it happens,” Girgensons said. “I definitely have made dirty hits in my life too, so it’s just how it is and he got suspended two games. That’s just how it is.”
Right after the hit, Girgensons chased Cowen down around the Ottawa net and appeared as if he wanted to fight Cowen. However, he changed his mind and skated back down the ice.
“I think everyone should get mad if you get hit right in the head because I could feel the force all the way in my head so I got a little mad,” he said. “I could’ve gotten an instigator if something happened so I think it was just better to leave it there.”
Brayden McNabb hasn’t played in an NHL game in almost two weeks. However, he has seen some game action during that time in the American Hockey League.
After sitting out as a healthy scratch for two games, the Sabres sent the 22-year-old defenseman to the Rochester Americans last Wednesday. In a game that night against Utica, he scored a goal, picked up two assists and was named the game’s first star. As planned, Buffalo recalled him following the game.
He’s been scratched in Buffalo’s two games since but McNabb will be back in the lineup when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m.
McNabb said he had a productive meeting with the Sabres coaching staff before he was sent down and is looking forward to playing in a Sabres jersey again.
“[When] I came out of the meeting, I wasn’t mad that I was going down. It was a positive thing, so it was a good meeting and I’m just excited to be back in the lineup tonight,” he said after the team's optional morning skate.
“It’s always nice to know what they’re thinking and they’re being honest with you too. Sometimes it’s not all stuff you need to work on. It’s good to know. They’ve been really good with it and they’re easy to approach so it’s nice, especially for guys like me who are young.”
WATCH: BRAYDEN McNABB INTERVIEW
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan praised McNabb’s positive attitude upon his return from the one-game stint in Rochester. Nolan also said that he believes McNabb has the potential to be a consistent player in the League.
“He has an intangible, he has the grit part to his personality. He’s going to get better and better because he wants to work at it and he’s willing to work at it and he’s willing to learn,” Nolan said. “He knows himself. He’s almost there. When you’re honest with yourself and you know what you need to work on, he’s one of those kids that’s going to be a long-time NHL player once he gets here permanently.”
McNabb hopes he can carry some of the good things he’s done on the ice lately into the game against Ottawa. He is also expected to see some time on Buffalo’s second power-play unit.
Buffalo hasn’t played the Senators since the second game of the season back on Oct. 4. Ottawa won that game 1-0 on a late third-period goal by Erik Karlsson.
After the game on Tuesday, the two clubs will see each other again on Thursday in Ottawa for the second half of the home-and-home series. With the tumultuous history between the clubs, having the two games so close together may help to really rekindle the rivalry.
Stafford leads the Sabres with 23 points (6+17) in 37 career games against Ottawa.
“It’s kind of a playoff atmosphere a little bit where the first game, we’re going to want to obviously come out hard tonight and be aggressive and go after that,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
The game is one of six the Sabres will play this month against divisional opponents.
Nolan has been back behind the Sabres bench for about a month now and he said he can tell the team is improving in certain areas. Both on and off the ice, he can see where the team is growing and learning.
One specific area is in the team’s work ethic and Nolan has been able to pinpoint which players give a consistent effort.
“The one thing I really noticed the last week here or so, the good guys are starting to rise a little bit. The guys who are not putting that effort in game in and game out, they’re starting to stick out a little bit too,” Nolan said. “One thing you do with a team is kind of hold them accountable to one another, so it’s starting to work itself out. There’s patience, but we don’t get that confused with avoiding it.
“We’re in a production business. We have to perform and if you’re not performing then maybe you have to sit and watch for awhile.”
One player that is producing offensively for the Sabres is center Tyler Ennis. He’s recorded two goals and an assist in the past two games.
“Every time you score, you get that … confidence back, a little bit at a time,” he said. “When you get confidence, you get a little more poise. You kind of settle in a little bit rather than rushing things and getting back to making plays.”
WATCH: TYLER ENNIS INTERVIEW
Nolan shook up the lines at practice on Monday. Stafford found himself with Marcus Foligno and captain Steve Ott, who will likely center the line. They’ll look to find some chemistry quickly and start the Sabres off on the right foot.
“Just to keep our work ethic up and keep competing. The minute we take our foot off the game, you know what happens when we let other teams control the pace of the play,” Stafford said. “I think if we’re skating and being the more aggressive team, the chances will continue to come and hopefully sooner rather than later, it’ll start to break.”
Ennis will center a line with wings Matt Moulson and Zemgus Girgensons. Cody Hodgson will start the game between Luke Adam and Matt D’Agostini. The fourth line will consist of John Scott, Cody McCormick and Brian Flynn.
Leino has five points through 18 games this season, but no goals. He saw his ice time dip to 13:18 against the Canadiens on Saturday after playing at least 18 minutes in each of the five previous games.
“Certain players with a certain skill set, they have to bring it,” Nolan said. “And if you’re not going to play as well as you can, sometimes it’s better off to sit and look and observe for a while and hopefully when he gets back in, he’ll play the way he’s capable of playing.”
WATCH: TED NOLAN'S PREGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
Leino said after the morning skate that he didn’t feel that his game against Montreal was good enough, but felt satisfied with his play over the past two weeks. While the production hasn’t been there, he felt that his line had a lot of offensive zone time while producing quality scoring chances.
“I’ve been playing my game the way I’ve always been playing it. It just hasn’t gone in,” Leino said. “There are a lot of good chances, lot of scoring chances so sometimes it doesn’t go your way and you’ve got to go back to work and try it.”
In addition to his recent play, Nolan said that he did not think Leino practiced well Monday.
“I think we’re a product of our environment. If we don’t practice hard, how are you going to play hard?” Nolan said. “So it’s one of those things. We have to set a certain standard here that you have to be accountable for. Not just Ville, but everybody.”
MONTREAL – Jhonas Enroth will look to improve on his perfect record against the Montreal Canadiens tonight when he gets the start for Buffalo at the Bell Centre.
Despite being just 1-5-2 this season, Enroth is 3-0-0 in his career against the Habs, along with a stingy 2.34 goals against average and .922 save%.
Tonight’s start will be the first for Enroth since he turned away 23 shots in a tough 1-0 overtime loss in New Jersey one week ago. Prior to that start, Enroth had gone two weeks without any game action.
Interim coach Ted Nolan said he’s spoken to Enroth and Ryan Miller about their playing time in recent days. With Miller having started 10 of Buffalo’s last 12 games, Nolan said he needs to be aware of when his number one goaltender could use a break.
“We had a nice meeting with the goaltenders about a week ago, and kind of mapped out a game plan. But it’s always subject to change,” explained Nolan. “The way Jhonas played last game, I had no hesitation about putting him back in today.”
Citing the need for additional speed up front against Montreal, Nolan said that Brian Flynn will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Thursday’s loss to the Rangers.
Drew Stafford and Christian Ehrhoff were the only two Sabres to not take part in today’s optional morning skate, however both will be in the lineup tonight. Defenseman Brayden McNabb got some extra work after the skate and is expected to be scratched. Nolan didn’t tip his hand as to which forward would be watching from the press box tonight.
Montreal comes into tonight’s game 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, including four straight wins. They currently occupy top spot in the Atlantic Division with a record of 18-9-3 (39 pts.), and have won five straight at home.
Tonight’s game is expected to be the 378th consecutive sell-out crowd at the always-raucous Bell Centre, which seats 21,273. It’s been almost 10 years since Montreal last played before a home crowd that was below capacity – January 8, 2004 vs. Tampa Bay.
The Buffalo Sabres haven’t played since Saturday and are ready to get back to work Thursday night.
They’ve had three strong days of practice leading up to their match against the New York Rangers at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m. and are looking forward to finally lacing up their skates again for game action.
Center Cody McCormick has missed four games with an upper-body injury, but is ready to roll against the Rangers.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said that defenseman Alexander Sulzer, who has missed practice all week with an undisclosed injury, will be placed on injured reserve so that McCormick can return to the lineup.
GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE FOR TONIGHT'S GAME
McCormick has been out since Nov. 21, but Nolan doesn’t expect him to miss a beat.
“Certain players have a certain skill set and I don’t think he’s going to miss too much. He brings energy to our lineup,” Nolan said after the team's optional morning skate. “He’s only been out a week, so it won’t affect him too much, but we expect some high energy from Cody and we’re looking forward to getting him back in the lineup.”
Defenseman Brayden McNabb was back with the team Thursday morning after spending Wednesday with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
McNabb scored a goal and recorded two assists Wednesday night in the Amerks’ 6-1 win over the Utica Comets.
“It doesn’t surprise me because he went down with such a great attitude. Attitude is everything. It’s like a flat tire. If you don’t change it, you ain’t going nowhere,” Nolan said. “He had a real good attitude about going down. He knows that he’s got a little ways to go for being a full-time NHL player and he went down and made us look bad for sending us down because he played real well.”
McBain has two goals and three assists in 16 games this season. He’s been a healthy scratch the past four games.
“It was an unfortunate situation that happened with him because I was trying to learn [about] everyone here and I was trying to get Myer’s game going and Ehrhoff’s game going and he just kind of got caught up into the mix,” Nolan said. “It was unfair to sit him out for any other reason but we had to find out about other people so we know he’s more of an offensive-gifted guy. Hopefully we’ll expect that.”
After missing practice on Wednesday, Matt D'Agostini was on the ice and is ready to play.
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal.
The Sabres announced Thursday that they would loan rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko to the Russian men's national junior ice hockey team so that he can play in the IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden later this month.
Grigorenko has seen limited ice time in his first full NHL season. Through 18 games, he’s scored twice and added an assist. He’s averaging 11:25 of ice time per game and has played a larger role in the games he’s dressed under Nolan. He has not played in Buffalo’s last two games.
“I think it’s going to be great for me because here, I’m not getting enough ice time so I’m a little bit frustrated. But there, I’ll play a lot,” he said. “It’s a really good level there, all the best junior players. I’m going to play against players my age and I’ll play a lot. I’ll play big minutes, so it’ll be a really good experience for me.”
Nolan said it will be a great opportunity for Grigorenko to get some playing time on a big stage.
“It’s the best junior kids in the world playing. So he’ll have that chance and hopefully represent himself very well and help further his development.”
Grigorenko said he’s really looking forward to representing his country again. He’s played for Russia in the last two junior tournaments.
“I’m really excited. I can’t wait to go there and meet all my friends and start preparation for world juniors,” he said. “It’s a big tournament for us and we have all the chances to win the gold and hopefully I’ll be able to bring my best game there.”
One of those friends is Sabres defensive prospect Nikita Zadorov, who was selected in the first round of this year’s draft. Zadorov will also participate in Russia’s selection camp.
Grigorenko said he will meet Zadorov in Toronto for a flight to Russia on Sunday.
As for other players in the Sabres system who could play in the tournament, J.T. Compher has been named to Team USA’s preliminary roster and Gustav Possler was named to Sweden’s preliminary roster. Amerks defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who suffered an upper-body injury last week, is eligible to play for Team Finland.
The 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship will take place from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Malmo, Sweden. Canada, the United States, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany will compete in Group A. Group B consists of Russia, Sweden, Finland and Norway.
NEWARK, N.J. – After an emotional overtime victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Buffalo Sabres will stick with the same lineup against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday with one exception. Jhonas Enroth will start in goal.
“It’s one of those things where you have to have a reward system,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said at Prudential Center. “We were planning on So-And-So taking So-And-So’s spot, but So-And-So played pretty well, so we can’t do that.”
Nolan said he would like to harness some of the energy his club had against Toronto for the game in New Jersey.
“We had a certain spirit last night to the game,” he said. “I think whatever you do for a living, if you have that spirit and you play with a certain amount of energy, good things happen.”
However, they’ll have to be careful against a Devils team that has a reputation for capitalizing on other team’s mistakes.
“The one thing I’ve always preached when I was going against this team before, it you have to have patience,” Nolan said. “They’re a very patient club. They’ve been like this for years and years and once you try to do something out of the ordinary, that’s when they make you pay for it. So patience is a virtue tonight.”
Nolan also said that the Sabres had planned to call right wing Patrick Kaleta up from the Rochester Americans this week, but a long-term injury Kaleta sustained on Friday will prevent them from doing so.
Nolan said that the injury could end Kaleta’s season, but they’ll know more on Sunday.
“We were going to bring him up. We were going to bring him up after the weekend. We already spoke to him. It was in the works,” Nolan said. “We had to get him back here. He wasn’t playing. He needed him to get some more games and unfortunately that happened. But we were definitely going to bring him back.”
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford .
9 Steve Ott – 23 Ville Leino – 27 Matt D’Agostini
72 Luke Adam – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
32 John Scott – 65 Brian Flynn – 82 Marcus Foligno