CHANGES ON THE WAY AS SABRES PREP FOR EDMONTON
EDMONTON – The Buffalo Sabres will have a slightly different look on Thursday as they attempt to snap a seven-game losing streak against the Edmonton Oilers. Matt Hackett will get the start in goal, and Marcus Foligno has been moved to a line with Buffalo’s two hottest players, Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis.
Michal Neuvirth took part in today’s practice at a suburban Edmonton rink, but interim coach Ted Nolan doesn’t expect him to be ready for game action until at least Sunday in Vancouver. That opens the door for Hackett to make his first start as a member of the Sabres tomorrow at Rexall Place.
Hackett, acquired from Minnesota in the Jason Pominville trade at last year’s deadline, is 13-17-2 in 33 games with the Rochester Americans this season, with a 3.07 GAA and .898 save%. The 24-year-old had 13 games of NHL experience with the Wild before joining Buffalo, posting a record of 3-7-0 with 2.64 GAA and .914 save%.
Nolan said that Hackett’s start is as much about timing as it is evaluation.
“Nathan (Lieuwen) has gotta be proud of himself the way he’s played (so far). But to overload him real quick is unfair to him, so we’ll go to Hackett. He’s played really well down in the AHL so he deserves a chance,” said Nolan. “It’s all about the evaluation period going forward here, especially looking to the future to see who we’ve got and what we’ve got. Hackett came in with good credentials in the beginning so we’ll see what he has.”
Something else that Nolan would like to see is more offense from his forwards, and that’s where he hopes Foligno can help out. Stafford (4) and Ennis (2) have combined to score all six of Buffalo’s goals during the current losing streak, and Nolan hopes that shuffling the deck up front will result in more scoring. Foligno will take the place of Cory Conacher who had skated with the red-hot duo since joining the Sabres six games ago.
“(Stafford and Ennis), they’ve both got their game going. You can’t ask for much more from them. It’d be unfair for us to break them up,” explained Nolan. “With Conacher, I think he had a couple of empty net tap in goals that he missed. Maybe it’ll be good for Marcus to get in that position, and maybe his confidence will rise. It’s just one of those things where we have to shake it up and try to create some offense somewhere.”
Cody Hodgson was back at center today following a brief stint on the wing, and he was flanked by Conacher and Torrey Mitchell. After skating on the fourth line in Calgary on Tuesday, newcomer Nicolas Deslauriers will now get a chance to play left wing with Brian Flynn and Matt D’Agostini.
Four players rotated through the fourth line in today’s practice, including Ville Leino who was demoted from third line action on Tuesday. Leino was joined by John Scott, Matt Ellis and Zenon Konopka, Buffalo’s lone healthy scratch against the Flames.
Marcus Foligno – Tyler Ennis – Drew Stafford
Cory Conacher – Cody Hodgson – Torrey Mitchell
Nicolas Deslauriers – Brian Flynn – Matt D’Agostini
Ville Leino – Matt Ellis – John Scott – Zenon Konopka