Tyler Ennis did not practice with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday as he recovers from, in the words of interim coach Ted Nolan, “general body soreness.”
Ennis was scratched for Buffalo’s game Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins but Nolan hopes that his top-line center will be ready for Friday when the San Jose Sharks come to town.
“[He’s] still a little sore. But hopefully, knock on wood, he’ll be ready to go tomorrow,” Nolan said after practice at First Niagara Center. “[It’s] still one of those day-to-day things. He was a lot better today, so hopefully you’ll have a good chance at seeing him at morning skate and we’ll go from there.”
With Ennis out, Ville Leino stepped up to fill his role on a line with Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford. Leino finished the game with two assists as Buffalo came out on top 5-4 in overtime.
“In many ways, I’m more of a playmaker so that’s my first thought,” Leino said. “…Matty and Stafford are goal scorers, so it’s my job to get them the puck and try to make good chances.”
Nolan said he plans to start Ryan Miller in goal Friday night.
Miller spoke with the media about the NHL Trade Deadline and his time in Buffalo. Watch the interview here:
John Scott has filled in as a defenseman in practice numerous times this season. However, since the team has come out of the Olympic break, Scott has been a fixture on the blue line both in practices and now in game situations.
Tuesday night, he played 11:01 on a pairing with Jamie McBain and logged 7:16 of ice time, rotating in as the seventh defenseman on Wednesday.
Scott played defense for most of his career before coming to Buffalo before the start of last season. At 6-foot-8, 259 pounds, he’ll look to use his size to his advantage on the blue line.
“I just try to use my reach. I obviously don’t have the quickest of feet so I just keep my distance,” he said. “I just use my stick and my length and make smart plays out there and not put myself in a bad position where I can get kind of victimized. It’s a fast game and I just try to maintain my position and do my best.”
WATCH: JOHN SCOTT INTERVIEW
There’s still, however, some rust to shake off as well. Scott finished the game against the Bruins with an even rating, but he committed a turnover behind his own net that directly led to a Boston goal.
“Obviously it has its ups and downs. I had a few downs last night, but it happens,” he said. “I haven’t played in two years but it’s been fun. I grew up playing D and I enjoy playing it so hopefully I can get a few more games out there and get a little better.”
Nolan acknowledged that the transition has been a little bumpy, but he likes what he sees out of Scott.
“I thought Johnny looked a lot more comfortable on defense outside of that one play last night,” Nolan said. “To be fair, to throw a guy like that after a number of games, back in his natural position, it’s going to take a little while to get adjusted but I like him on defense more so than forward.”
WATCH: TED NOLAN'S PRESS CONFERENCE
While Scott has been able to step up in various roles this season, he still sees himself as a player who can fill the enforcer role on the team.
“I still think I’m the enforcer. I still think I protect my team but I think I’ve just maybe evolved a little bit and gotten a more regular shift whether it’s on forward or D,” he said. “It’s nice. It’s good to contribute in other ways and put a little tick on my resume where I can play more than just fight.”
With the Sabres currently in 30th place and out of the playoff picture, some major changes could be made to the club’s makeup by the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5.
In spite of the swirling rumors and constant questions about their futures, players like Miller, Moulson and captain Steve Ott – all set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 – have helped Buffalo to consecutive victories coming out of the Olympic break.
WATCH: MATT MOULSON INTERVIEW
Nolan cited them as three important leaders that have been able to remain professional and help their current club be productive in any way they can.
“All these guys maybe have excuses or reasons to say, ‘Hey, it’s a matter of time before we leave.’ No, they’re not doing that,” he said. “They’re paying attention to what they have to do right here right now.”
But what will happen if some of those leaders aren’t around after 3 p.m. on Wednesday? Nolan is confident other players will fill the void.
“That’s the beauty of sports. Sometimes your leadership goes somewhere else and you have to create some new stuff within,” Nolan said. “There are some guys in that room that will have to [assume] those positions.”
26 Matt Moulson – 23 Ville Leino – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
82 Marcus Foligno – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 65 Brian Flynn
37 Matt Ellis – 24 Zenon Konopka – 8 Cody McCormick
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 52 Alexander Sulzer
6 Mike Weber – 57 Tyler Myers
20 Henrik Tallinder – 4 Jamie McBain
32 John Scott
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth