GERBE ELEVATED TO TOP LINE; NO VANEK AGAIN
Thomas Vanek will miss his fifth straight game with an upper body injury tonight when the Sabres (14-17-6) host the Ottawa Senators (19-11-6) at First Niagara Center in a 7 p.m. start.
Buffalo’s leading scorer skated for the third day in a row and continues to improve, but he’s still not ready to get back into a game for the first time since February 26 in Tampa.
Ryan Miller gets the start in goal tonight, coming off an impressive performance in Buffalo’s 4-1 streak-stopping win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The trade of Jason Pominville to Minnesota not only left the Sabres without a captain, but it also opened up a hole on the right side of Buffalo’s first line. The first player to get a crack alongside Steve Ott and Cody Hodgson will be Nathan Gerbe.
The feisty winger will be elevated from the third line to the first unit tonight, and knows this is his shot to prove himself with the team’s top offensive center in Hodgson.
“It’s a good opportunity for me. I’m just gonna come in and try to take advantage of it, play hard and try to compete. Hopefully good things happen,” Gerbe said today. “I’m kind of the guy that can move around everywhere in the lineup. This is a good chance for me.”
Gerbe has seven points (4+3) in 31 games this season, and has bounced all over the depth chart. While the constant shuffling might bother some players, Gerbe says he’s become accustomed to it.
“I’m getting used to it for sure. I think towards the beginning it was a little difficult; new guy every game or new position. Now I’m getting the hang of right wing and it’s becoming more natural for me to play on that side and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable.”
Interim head coach Ron Rolston says there’s value in a player like Gerbe who can fill a variety of roles on a hockey club.
“He’s pretty versatile so that’s probably a good thing. He’s played left wing and right wing, and some of his best offensive games have been on the right side,” said Rolston. “He’s one of those guys that brings you the same thing every night. He’s got good speed and he competes. Again, you can put him anywhere and he’ll be that same player. That’s what gives him value for us.”