Tag Archives: Ryan Miller

Two Games For Tootoo? Good Call

Sabreland patiently awaited word from the NHL’s hearing about Jordin Tootoo’s charging penalty against Ryan Miller on Saturday night in Nashville. The league took it’s time with this one, announcing this afternoon that Tootoo will be suspended for the next two games without pay.

Since WordPress won’t allow me to post Shanahan’s explanation, here is a statement handed down from the league office:

Nashville Predators forward Jordin Tootoo has been suspended, without pay, for two games for charging Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller during NHL Game #379 Saturday night, Dec. 3, in Nashville, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Tootoo will forfeit $13,513.52. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
The incident occurred at 15:54 of the second period. Tootoo was assessed a major penalty for charging and game misconduct on the play.
Tootoo will miss games tonight vs. Phoenix and Dec. 8 at Columbus. He will be eligible to return Dec. 10 vs. Anaheim.

In Shanahan’s explanation, Tootoo is driving to the net with the puck, but loses it before he is able to make a play. Tootoo had enough time to avoid Miller even though Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was making body contact with Tootoo. Another thing Shanahan nitpicks about is the fact that Tootoo jumped into Miller. While Shanahan understands the claim that Tootoo jumped to avoid contact, it actually made the play more dangerous, resulting in contact with Miller’s head. As you can see:

The result of the play was a massive scrum by the net, which included Paul Gaustad involving his fists, as well as Miller taking matters into his own hands, throwing blockers at Tootoo’s face. Furthermore, Tootoo was penalized with a five minute major for charging.

First of all, that’s already a lot more than what Milan Lucic got for running Miller outside of his crease. Lucic, if you remember, was given two minutes for that particular incident. The call on the ice was suitable for what Tootoo did. He was also ejected from the game.

When word came from the NHL yesterday that Tootoo was going to have a phone hearing with Shanahan, many were worried that the league might not come down on Tootoo at all, as the maximum suspension Tootoo could have gotten from a phone hearing is just five games.

Tootoo was given two games, though, and that seems good enough. Frankly, we shouldn’t even compare this to the Lucic incident, which was completely different from the way Tootoo ran the net.

In Lucic’s case, Miller went to make a play on a loose puck out of his crease, standing upright. Miller wasn’t “fair game” in this case, but he certainly put himself in a position to get severely hurt, which is what ended up happening, as Miller suffered a concussion from this play. While Miller was in a position in which he could get hurt, though, Lucic had plenty of time to steer clear of any sort of accident. The league really screwed that call up.

In this case, Tootoo was driving with the puck to the net, with Miller in his crease making sure the puck stays out. Tootoo loses the puck, yet still keeps barreling into Miller. Unfortunately for Tootoo, his trying to avoid hitting the goalie by jumping only made matters worse. Hitting the goalie like that, whether a player meant it or not, is a big no-no.

While Tootoo is what many fans are considering a “repeat offender”, keep in mind that Tootoo has been in the league eight years, and the last time he was suspended was when he sucker punched Stephan Robidas of the Dallas Stars almost four years ago. For reference:

Yeah, that was pretty blatant. The charging call on Miller didn’t seem as blatant. If anything, Sabres fans should be more appalled that Lucic got nothing for a more vicious hit on Miller than Tootoo did on a routine drive to the net. It looked more like Tootoo was trying to avoid the contact by jumping over Ryan Miller rather than just barrel into him. Not every player can think like Ryan Kesler and just jump on top of the net:

It’s basically the exact same thing. Kesler just made a much better choice and tried hopping over the net instead, while still making contact with the goalie.

Frankly, two games is enough for this incident, considering Tootoo was given a major penalty and was ejected from the game. There was no way this would get anything more than that. Again, it was a routine drive to the net in which Tootoo lost control of the puck, and himself. Nothing more. Jumping into Miller doesn’t seem like the best call to make, but perhaps Tootoo was a great long-jumper back in high school and thought he might try to put that to good use. Better luck next time, bud.

Honestly, there is no reason to believe that it’s going to be open-season on goalies from this point forward. How many other incidents have we had this year where the goalie was completely run over and nothing was done about it? Just that one from Boston game? Miller is the only goalie that has been viciously hit, and now that it’s happened twice, it obviously leads to the conclusion that Lindy Ruff was right, that it truly is going to be open-season on goalies. However, in reality, this seems to be a huge coincidence that just happened to involve the same goalie twice in a row, and the likelihood of it happening again seems fairly slim.

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Trade Rumors: Why They’re Fun and Why They Suck

I love when the trade winds start rocking the boat in November. It’s the beginning of the season, and teams are supposed to be feeling out where they’ll be by mid-season in January. Some teams are doing really well, like Boston, who went 12-0-1 in November. Naturally, fans and media alike wouldn’t think to mess with the mojo of a team by talking trades. Of course, there are those anomalies like Vancouver, who are playing well in front of backup goalie Cory Schneider, who in the month of November had a save percentage of .942 along with 2 shutouts. Roberto Luongo isn’t doing too hot, so naturally, fans are thinking it’s time to trade franchise goalie Roberto Luongo.

I stress that we are only two months into hockey season.

Of course, all hell broke loose this past week when a rumor was floated out through the hockey world: the Anaheim Ducks had made Bobby Ryan available by trade. The Ducks were a mess in November, winning only 2 of their 13 games. It made sense that the Ducks were looking for a shake-up. Everybody and their mother was trying to figure out the right trade to bring Bobby Ryan to [insert team name here]. For a while, it seemed like the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers were the teams most likely to get Ryan to play for their respective squads. Status quo.

Along the way, Hall of Fame hockey writer Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reported that Ryan Miller may not consider it the worst thing to be traded out of Buffalo. This one picked up a ton of steam simply because of the amount of respect Matheson has from the hockey world.

It was Tuesday night that things started to get really interesting. Ducks GM Bob Murray and two Anaheim scouts paid a visit to Buffalo to watch the Sabres play the Islanders. Twitter erupted shortly afterwards, trying to figure out why a hockey GM would ever decide to go to an opposing team’s arena to watch an NHL hockey game.

Who would have thought that it’s more or less because they can?

The hockey world was a mad-house on Wednesday. WGR was talking about trade ideas with Anaheim for the entirety of Schopp and the Bulldog. Reports were coming in and out all day that team A was out, team B was in on Bobby Ryan. Ryan referred to the trade rumors as “a nightmare.” His coach, Randy Carlisle, pretty much told him to deal with it.

This went on all day until around 10:00 Eastern time, when the Ducks and the Montreal Canadiens got things going in Anaheim, with Bobby Ryan skating on Anaheim’s second line. That’s when things started dying down.

Where does Ryan Miller fit into all this? Obviously, the Ducks were looking for a big piece back in order to ship out a player as talented as Ryan. The only explanation was that the Sabres and Ducks were talking about a trade for the two players.

Unfortunately in the hockey world, trades aren’t that simple. Besides, the Ducks are set at goalie with Jonas Hiller. Trading Miller for Ryan didn’t make sense, in any respect imaginable.

If Ryan Miller was going to be traded, it would have been news to him, which is news in itself. Miller has a no-trade clause, where he’d have to submit a list of eight teams he does not want to play for.

It is awesome that we have something like this to talk about in the month of November. Year in and year out, we as fans wait for the trade deadline in order to discuss ridiculous deals that (probably) aren’t going to happen. To have something like that to talk about in November is awesome for hockey fans who aren’t especially fond of the first part of the regular season.

Of course, the bad part about a rumor in November is that it makes the entire hockey world crazy about just that one rumor, until it’s over-hyped so much that every single team’s fans think that their team can get the guy that’s being hung out like bait for other teams to grab a hold of. Fans dream up every single possible (or impossible) way in order to satisfy their urge to make that player a member of his or her favorite team’s roster.

The point of this story is that when a star player’s name is floated out like Bobby Ryan’s, the entire hockey world stops in awe of who might actually pick up a guy with his caliber. He’s a decent sized forward with a ton of skill that can help any hockey team in the scoring department. There’s not a team in the NHL that doesn’t want Bobby Ryan, except for the Anaheim Ducks, seemingly.

In the end, the Ducks just did what every other team does when their team needs to be re-energized. They fired their coach.


The Injury Bug Strikes Again

So, while we head into the month of December, the Sabres find themselves with a slew of injuries, which even the best of teams would have a hard time overcoming. Let’s take a look at those injuries who is injured:

Ryan Miller – Concussion
Tyler Myers – Wrist
Robyn Regehr – Upper Body
Mike Weber – Upper Body
Brad Boyes – Lower Body
Tyler Ennis – Ankel
Cody McCormick- Upper Body
Patrick Kaleta – Lower Body
and following last nights loss to Columbus its being reported that a mystery forward is hurt and might miss tonight’s games. (UPDATE: Drew Stafford is reported to have a groin injury, according to WGR’s Paul Hamilton.)

Day-to-day injuries happen, and they are expected over the grueling 82-game season. The Sabres’ injuries fall mostly into the “wait and see what happens” category, with no real timetables for any player’s return. The only two players from the above list that have been skating in no contact drills are winger Tyler Ennis and defenseman Mike Weber.

To try to alleviate the pain from these injuries, the Sabres were forced to call up many players from the Rochester Americans. The Sabres must be relieved that they remade this partnership with the Amerks before the start of the season. So in case you’re having trouble matching the numbers to the names in tonight’s game here is a list of those players who were called-up:

54 – Zack Kassian – 1 NHL GAME – RW
58 – Paul Szczechura – 83 NHL GAMES – C
78 – Corey Tropp – 9 NHL GAMES – RW
33 – T.J. Brennan – 2 NHL Games – D
81 – Brayden Mcnabb – 0 NHL GAMES – D
31 – Drew Macintyre – 4 NHL GAMES – G

Hopefully the injured mystery player doesn’t prove to be too costly, and the Sabres can find a way to battle hard and pull out what should be a tough 2 points against a Washington team that is also in need of an important 2 points.


The Road to Redemption

There is no better may to combat a tough game than to comeback in the next and make everyone forget that last one ever happened.  Tonight the Sabres will try and do just that with the visiting Calgary Flames in town.  The team will look to rookie goaltender Jhonas Enroth to steady the ship tonight.  Coming off a game where he held the Philadelphia Flyers scoreless for roughly 53 minuets.

Its no surprise that Lindy Ruff is giving Enroth the nod for tonight.  Even though he might just be sticking to the schedule like he says, when a goaltender puts up a shutout the majority of the time the coach will ride that goalie.  In my eyes this is the right decision to make for several reason.  The first being is that in protects Ryan Miller for the time being.  It is well advertised that Miller plays an emotional game, just look at his reactions when there is a missed call or something he disagrees with.  Even though Miller would like to make you think otherwise I for one believe that the boos get to him, and not in a good way.  Having Miller most likely go on Saturday night in Ottawa at this point is the better scenario to put Miller into to get his confidence built back up and return him to that passionate goalie we all at some point have loved.  With that all being said the other reason i support this as i stated above Enroth is the hot hand, during his relief stint he was a perfect 15 for 15 against the Flyers bringing him to a .955 save percentage in his three appearances on the young season.

Missing from the Sabres lineup tonight will be Buffalo native Patrick Kaleta.  Kaleta was suspended 4 games by Brendan Shanahan and the NHL for a headbutt he landed on Flyers foward Jakub Voracek.  While at the game I initially did no see the headbutt, upon watching the reply of the incident I have to say the NHL made the right call on this one.  Don’t get me wrong I love a Kaleta hit has much as the next Sabres fan, but there is a difference between a nice clean hit and ramming your helmet into the jaw of an opponent.  If this was a first time offender the NHL most likely would of let the player off with a warning, but since Kaleta is a repeat offender of the offense the 4 game suspension is a fair ruling in my eyes.

Taking the spot of Kaleta in tonight’s lineup will be Sabres prospect Corey Tropp, who will be making his NHL debut.  This call makes sense since Tropp plays a physical game much like Kaleta.  During his 2011-2012 campaign so far  Tropp has notched 4 goals and 3 assist while compiling 16 penalty minuets in 10 games played, while playing for the Rochester Americans, the Sabres farm team.If I had to guess where Tropp will be inserted into the lineup, it would be on the 4th line with veterans Matt Ellis and Cody Mccormick.  This would move Brad Boyes onto a line with Paul Gaustad and Nathan Gerbe and leave the top two lines alone.

Despite what people might think the Sabres besides the first seven minuets of the game played a solid game.  The Lenio-Roy-Stafford showed some sign of chemistry and where creating chances and pressure throughout the rest of the game.  Even though they didn’t find the score sheet I think if you keep this line together for some more time then 1 game you could see some great things from them down the line.  The top line up Vanek-Adam-Pominville continued there hot start of the season and will be looked at to continue it while the rest of the team has yet to hit there stride.

Players to Watch

Buffalo Sabres:

Robyn Regehr:  Regehr will get the chance to play his former team tonight for the first time.  Like most players he is probably excited to get out there and play against the team he spent his whole 11 year NHL career with before being traded over to the Sabres this past summer.  While Regehr has yet to find the score sheet as a Sabres he has brought something much more important to this team, and that is grit and determination.  Ask any player who has tried to squick past Regehr while entering the offensive zone, and they will tell you how hard he hits.

Calgary Flames:

Olli Jokinen/Jarome Iginla: Both Jokinen and Iginla are entering tonight game on high points.  In there last 4 games both Iginla(2G, 2A) and Jokinen(2G, 2A) have 4 points during this stretch.  Look for these line mates to try and continue there game from last night against Detroit today against the Sabres.  Combined the two forwards tallied 3 goals and 2 assists in the Flames 4-1 win.

Between the Pipes:

Tonight’s match up will feature two goalie seeing there 4th appearance of the season.  The Sabres will send out rookie Jhonas Enroth(2-0-0), while the Flames will feature Henrik Karlsson(0-1-1).  The advantage tonight has to go to Enroth who is posting a .955 save percentage in his 3 appearances thus far, while Karlsson has struggled posting a measly .881 save percentage to date.  If Enroth can continue his solid play the Sabres should skate away with the W aginst a less talented Flames Squad.


Here we go Again

Tonight the Sabres will take on the conference rival, Philadelphia Flyers.  This game has importance for several reason, mainly showing that they can indeed play at home.  Since i last wrote (sorry got busy)  the Sabres have returned home for a stretch that has them play 7 out of 8 games inside the confines of  the First Niagara Center.  On the season the Sabres are a abysmal 1-3 at home, not only losing but looking terrible in doing so.

The Sabres will be looking to come out strong and put this behind them.  The Flyers are not in anyway a give me game, but the players should have the motivation to come out and beat the team that ousted them from the postseason last year.  An added bonus will be the abscencse of Daniel Briere from the Flyers lineup as he is out with an Upper-Body injury.  Briere has generally been the biggest problem for the Sabres since hes relocation to the Philadelphia, so this should help the Sabres in defending the Flyers offense.

Beyond the Flyers the Sabres should be looking to make a statement to the home crowd that will attend the game tonight.  The fans are not asking the team to win every game at home, we are just asking that you put the effort out there and play the game we know your capable of.  This is the earliest I can remember the team being booed at home in a long time.If the effort is put in and the team does not try to over do it on the flashiness there is no reason this team shouldn’t be winning at home like they are on the road.  Granted this has been a same sampling of the season thus far, but as everyone knows every singal point out there is important when it comes to the end of the season.

With all this in mind Lindy Ruff made some much needed changes to the lineup in hopes of creating a new spark in this team.  Marc-Andre Gragnani will take to the press box tonight and Mike Weber will take over for him on the blueline.  I have been asking for Weber to get his chance from the start, going back to last years playoffs he has been one of out better defense man.  From what i understand Weber will be pairing with Robyn Regehr.  All i can say is Philly forwards i hope you wear some extra padding tonight, this pair should hit everything in site and look for Weber to come out hungry after sitting in the press box since the start of the year.

Up front Ruff will be moving Ville Leino back to pivot where he will join the top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.  Not to say Luke Adam was doing a bad job on this line,  this move is clearly just trying to get Lenio going and no better way then to put him on a line with your two highest scorers this season.  When asked about Lenio, Ruff had this to say:

“We’re trying to be patient, let him try to make some plays and it doesn’t mean he’s going to fit right where I’ve got him, right now, but I know he’ll fit. It’s no different from when Danny Briere got here and Danny didn’t want to play center, he felt wing would be his best spot and I thought it would be center and eventually he ended up and center and that would be his position so I’ve got lots of experience to rely on.”

Look for the rest of the lineup to stay pretty much the same, except for the powerplay which will now be sans Gragnani and see Derek Roy take over the point on one of the units.

Players to Watch

Buffalo:

Matt Ellis: During his 3 games with the Sabres thus far,Ellis has been one of the Sabres few bright spots during that stint.  Hes hard work earned him a spot on a line with Roy and Drew Stafford midway through the Panthers game.  While registering 1 assist this season Ellis wont dazzle you with his point production, but will with ability to play Ruffs system almost to a tee.

Philadelphia:

Scott Hartnell:  Hartnell is on a real hot streak as of late, During his last 4 games he has amassed 9 points( 4G, 5A).  Hartnell is not afraid to play the body physical in both the offensive and defensive zone.  He is well know as being one of those players you love on your team and hate on the other team.  Defenseman should be on the look out and ready whenever Hartnell is on the ice because he is as much a physical threat as he is a offensive threat.

Between the Pipes:

Tonight’s Goaltending  matchup will find Ryan Miller(4-4-0) vs. Ilya Bryzgalov(4-4-1).  Both former Vezina finalist will be looking to get there season back on track after facing early struggles.  How these goalies play tonight will go a long way in determining which of there teams will be leaving the First Niagara Center tonight with the W and the important 2 points.


Player Preview: Defense/Goaltending

The Sabres defense is quickly gaining the distinction of being one of the top defense groups in the NHL on paper, and this is without playing a regular season game together.  They will be asked to defend the crease in front of All-Star, Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Ryan Miller, along with up and comer Jhonas Enroth.

Pairing 1

Tyler Myers – Christian Ehroff

This pair should find them selves on opposite sides of the blue line once the actual games begin.  This pair will be looked at to not only stop the other team, but to go and score, as well.  Myers will be entering his 3rd NHL season and is considered to be one of the premier defense man in the league.  Not only will his extended reach close down gaps in the defensive zone, he was able to realize his physical prowess and was not taking any nonsense from anyone, last season, Zdeno Chara included.  While not being known for his defensive dominance,  Ehrhoff is known as one of the top offensive defense man in the league.   It has been seen in the preseason that he is willing to join the rush and create offensive chances.  Both players will see time playing the point on the PP, with Ehrhoff most likely quarterbacking the first line.

Pairing 2

Jordan Leopold-Robyn Regehr

The former Calgary Flame teammates will find themselves reunited on the same blue line for the upcoming season.  Regehr has garnered a lot of attention since coming over from Calgary early in the off-season.  While not known for scoring goals, Regehr is known for dominating the defensive zone with his physical play and defensive skill.  One thing the Sabres have been missing is that defenseman who could out muscle most opposing forwards in the league, and that man has been found in Regehr.  Regehr will be a constant player on the PK, and should be paired up with Myers to go aginst the other teams’ top units.  Leopold is more known for his offensive play, but is capable of playing a solid defensive game.  Last season, Leopold was the second highest scoring defense man for the Blue and Gold and will look to continue this.  He could find himself on the second PP unit along with Tyler Myers, which could be a top unit on another team.

Pairing 3

Andrej Sekera – Marc-Andre Gragnani – Mike Weber

These three young man will to start the season finding themselves rotated between being in the lineup and in the press box.  To start the season this pair will likely be Sekera and Gragnani.  Sekera is one of the young defenseman the Sabres feel confident in for years to come after signing a new 4-year deal this off-season.  Last year was a year of streaks for Sekera.  There were times when Sekera was nearly unstoppable for opposing teams to defend his offensive ability.  On the other side of things, Sekera as had those moments where you wondered if he was really ready to make the jump to be a full time defenseman.  There will be a short leash for Sekera this season.  This can be done since the Sabres will have an NHL capable player up in the press box every night, barring injuries.  Gragnani will be entering his rookie season in the top hockey league in the world.  Up to this point he has amassed only 15 regular season games and 7 playoff games.  He will be looked at to produce on the offensive side of things.  In last season’s playoffs, I will flat out say Gragnani was the best Sabres player on the ice.  He did everything, from shutting down Philadelphia’s offense, play on both the PP and PK, and also lead the team in points with 7.  This season, Gragnani, when playing, should be paired with Ehrhoff on the first PP unit.  Gragnani should be able to put up decent number if he stays in the lineup for the majority of the season.  A 40 point season is not out of reach if everything falls into place.  At this point Weber will be pushing all the other defenders to play better,  because he will be chomping at the bit for any player to make a mistake and let their lineup spot fall to him.  Weber put up a decent rookie season last year putting up 17 points and showing  loads of grit and physical ability.  Not afraid to drops the glove with anybody, Weber will not be intimidated by any of the leagues power forwards, goons, and enforcers.

Goaltending

Starter- Ryan Miller

Once again, and to the surprised of no one, Ryan Miller will be entrusted to defend the twine for the Sabres for the majority of the games. Miller will be looking to return to his All-Star status this season.  This shouldn’t be a problem since the Sabres have surrounded Miller with a top flight group of defensemen.  Miller should get around 60 games this season, which would be on the lower side from past seasons, and reduce the amount of  both mental and physical fatigue.  This can be done with the emergence of Jhonas Enroth as a legitimate backup goaltender.  Miller should be able to reach to 40 win plateau for the third time in his career.  If Miller falters at all this year Enroth will be given a chance to play, which should lead Miller to upping his level of play because this will be the first time since Marty Biron in which Miller has a backup who could be trusted with the role of starter for longer periods of time.  (Editor’s Note:  That’s not to say that Jhonas Enroth could take Miller’s job from him.  Jeff is only pointing out that the Sabres finally have a guy that can be trusted to start in place of Ryan Miller if need be.)

Backup- Jhonas Enroth

Enroth will be looking to add to his numbers from his first serious stint the NHL.  In 14 games last season, Enroth was able to amass a record of 9-2-2-1.  Enroth will be the first serious backup goaltender for the Sabres since the presence of fan favorite Marty Biron.  I would not be shocked to see Enroth getting between 20-25 games, if not more this season.  He will be pushing Miller every step of the way, and if Miller were to falter at all Lindy Ruff should have no problem giving Enroth time to see if he is the real deal.


Player Previews: Offense

Heading into the 2011-2012 season, expectations are high in Sabres Nation.  With the addition of Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino, plus the return of first line center Derek Roy, the Sabres should be contending for the Northeast Division title, if not the Eastern Conference title.  Without further introduction, lets jump right into the offensive previews:

Jason Pominville- No better place to start then the player who was just named captain.  Pominville will be entering this year  after a season that was started and ended with injuries.  In the October 11th game vs. the Chicago Blackhawks, Pominville suffered a concussion which held him out for nearly a month.  After returning Poiminville struggled to find the score sheet only registering 4 points in his first 15 games back from injury.  Finding the score sheet is something Pominville will be asked to do more often even though his PP time might be lowered due to additions who could take over the QB spot, but more on that later.  Pominville should find himself on the first line with Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy, two of his assistant captains.  With that kind of  offensive talent Pominville should have no problem returning to the 70 point range.  Another thing  Pominville will be asked to do is be one of the team’s top penalty killers.

Thomas Vanek- Despite losing his perennial line mate 35 games into the season, Vanek has developed into a player who no longer has to rely on his center to carry the puck the majority of the time.  During Roy’s absence Vanek was able to put up 45 point in 45 games, often time playing with players who normally are not considered first line players.  More importantly than the points however, Vanek developed confidence in his game, a skill that can not be taught.  During this period he trusted himself to carry the puck more and not give it to line-mates.  He showed that he is capable of not only scoring, but passing the puck as well.  Besides Ryan Miller, Vanek is the player this team lives and dies with during the game.  Often times when Vanek is on his game, the rest of the team is, as well.   It would not be surprising to see Vanek topple some of his career highs this season, especially if both line-mates Roy and Pominville stay healthy for the majority of the season.

Derek Roy- Roy should be ready to start the 2011-2012 season where he left off the 2010-2011 season, barring the shoulder injury Roy has been nursing throughout the Pre-season.    The biggest question for Roy this season in my mind is if he can stay healthy, not if he can produce.  Over his career Roy has averaged .81 points per game.  Along with Pominville, Roy should also be asked to help in killing penalties.  It would be no surprise if Roy produces at a point-per-game pace, and having Vanek and Pominville flanking him will lead to many opportunities for all three of them to have success.

Drew Stafford- Stafford is coming off a season where he put up career high in both goals and points in a season he played only 62 games, his lowest since his rookie season.  Stafford should find himself on a line with Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino to start the season.  Stafford will be looking to prove that he has earned his newly sign contract and prove his worth to the City of Buffalo.  I believe that last season was no fluke and Stafford will add on to his previous totals.  He showed up this off-season focused and willing to do anything he could to improve his play.  If this line continues to click like they have in the preseason,  there is no doubt in my mind the Sabres could have their first multiple 40-goal-scorers in a long time.

Tyler Ennis- In his sophomore season Ennis  should be given a more prominent role in the offense.  Ennis last season ranked in the top 7 for rookies in most offensive statistics.  There is something I see in this kid that I just can’t put a finger on.  Often, I have said I see a lot of Daniel Briere in Ennis.  Despite their short stature (Briere is 5’10”, Ennis 5’9″), they are both willing to go to and around the net where they are constantly up against larger opponents.  Ennis will be looking to add to his rookie numbers,  This is doable if he sticks to playing his game, which is avoiding defenders and either getting open or getting the puck to the open player.  Ennis should see time on the Sabres second PP unit.  Last season Ennis put up 5 PP goals and 9 assists.  This season on the upside Ennis could put up 60 points to be conservative, If he hits the all too mentioned sophomore slump, 40 points would be the low-end of the spectrum, but I for one don’t see that happening with this kid.

Ville Leino- Rounding out the top 6 forwards will be newcomer Ville Leino.  Leino is joining the team as a premier free-agent signing, something the Sabres have been reluctant to do in the past.  Leino will be asked to play center, a position he has yet to play while in the NHL.  The Sabres are hoping that Leino will be able to renvert back to the position he played for his entire career before he came to the NHL.  While there are legitimate concerns on whether Leino can be a consistent top-six forward,  I believe the transition back to his natural position will produce a great deal of points.   Don’t forget, Leino was brought into the league by the Detroit Red Wings, who have shown us that when pertaining to scouting European talent, they are one of the best.  Leino is another player I wouldn’t be surprised to see have a career year this year.  Only time will tell if Leino can live up to the expectations that have grown for him in his short time in Buffalo.

Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta – This line will be used as the Sabres Third line.  At the end of the season this line really clicked and was doing everything all over the ice: hitting, passing, shooting, defending.  You name it and they were doing it.  During the playoffs this line often looked as though they where the best line out there.  Continuing on the Success from the late part of the season, these three guys took it upon themselves to develop their chemistry together.  They did this by meeting during the off-season and working off their success.  If this line sticks, they will often find themselves out there against any team’s top line.

Fourth Line-  The fourth line for the Sabres this season will often be a mix and match of multiple players this season.  To open the year, it looks like rookie Luke Adam will take the pivot with Cody Mccormick and Brad Boyes flanking his wings.  Other players who could find time him are Jochen Hecht once he returns from injury and Matt Ellis.  The line as it stands now is capable of putting up offensive numbers.  Adam and Boyes both are offensively gifted players.  Adam should be exciting, he has been labeled the center for the future, and the future starts now for this kid.  If he puts up solid performances, he could find himself skating on the top 6 by mid-season.  Mccormick will continue his role as the enforcer on the team, and dropping the gloves when it is required.  Mccormick is capable of putting up some points, last season he put up 20 points, which in my opinion is all bonus coming from your enforcer.

Stayed tuned.  Defensive and goalie previews are coming up.


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