PHILADELPHIA -- There hasn't been a lot for Buffalo Sabres forward Ville Leino to smile about this season, but a return to Philadelphia certainly is a high point for him.
Leino had his best NHL experiences in his two seasons with the Flyers, going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 and setting career highs last season with 19 goals and 34 assists while playing on a top line with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell.
An unrestricted free agent after the season, he signed a six-year, $27 million deal with the Sabres in the hope that last season was the foundation for extended success. It hasn't worked out, though, as Leino has just four goals and 11 assists in 45 games, and was a healthy scratch once.
"I had a lot of fun here," Leino told reporters following the Sabres' morning skate. "It was so far the best time of my career. But it's still fun in Buffalo. ... We've been struggling a little bit, but we have a good team here and it can get better."
Leino has bounced from center to the wing, and tonight will play left wing on a line with center Derek Roy and right wing Jason Pominville.
"I think we had a good run those five games or whatever we were playing (together earlier in the season)," said Leino. "We were winning games, so hopefully we can get back to those winning ways and get some goals tonight and help the team."
"When he's played with Derek he's played well," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "We're hoping to get the same type of play."
While Leino already has faced the Flyers twice this season, Pominville told NHL.com he expects to see Leino have an extra jump in his skates tonight.
"It's going to be a special night for him, I'm sure," he said. "This is the place where he really made a name for himself, had the most success, and has done really well here. It's a special night. He wants to do well in front of friends and old teammates. We'll try to help him out. He won't need that extra motivation tonight, he'll already have that."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK