DENVER – The Buffalo Sabres will be without their leading scorer Saturday night in the Mile High City.
Tyler Ennis, who sustained an upper-body injury during the team’s game on Thursday, will not play against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. The Tops Game Night pregame show begins at 8:30 p.m. EST on MSG-B and Bell with faceoff set for the 9 p.m. EST. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan hopes that Ennis will be ready for Monday’s game in Arizona. Ennis has 19 goals and 42 points in 72 games this season.
“There were a number of guys missing this year, but when you miss a guy like him, that one definitely, definitely hurts,” Nolan said. “No disrespect to the rest, but he’s by far our most dynamic player, probably our MVP this year. It’s certainly tough without him.”
For now, captain Brian Gionta will step up and play on the top line with center Johan Larsson and left wing Matt Moulson.
Gionta has elevated his game in the past month and just over the past six games, he has three goals and four assists. He’s coming off back-to-back multi-point games and will look to make it three in a row for the first time since Nov. 20 to 23, 2008.
His ice time has also jumped up. He’s played at least 21:30 in nine of the past 10 games since March 6. He skated a season-high 24:50 on Thursday.
“The more touches you get and the more ice time and minutes you get, you feel more comfortable with the puck and in different situations. But things have just been going in for whatever reason. You’re getting the bounces.
He’s also made a concerted effort to shoot the puck more. He’s recorded seven shots in each of the past two games and has at least four shots on net in five of the past six.
“Shots per game is something I’ve been trying to focus on too,” he said. “You get that opportunity, you make sure you take advantage and get a shot on net and not passing it up.”
Nolan has been impressed not only with Gionta’s recent play but with how he prepares himself for every game.
“He’s played 14 seasons and it looks like it’s his first,” Nolan said. “His enthusiastic approach to the game, the way he plays, the way he competes should make all the young kids who were given opportunities play even harder because of that.”
Anders Lindback will start in goal for the Sabres and Nikita Zadorov will serve as a healthy scratch on defense.
Nolan and the coaching staff continue to work with Zadorov to make sure he’s developing the right habits as a professional.
“We have to get him to a certain point and he has to make sure he knows that this is the National Hockey League and it’s not just given to him because,” Nolan said. “He was to work for it.”
26 Matt Moulson – 22 Johan Larsson – 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 20 Zac Dalpe
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 84 Philip Varone – 19 Cody Hodgson
37 Matt Ellis – 59 Tim Schaller – 36 Patrick Kaleta
61 Andre Benoit – 47 Zach Bogosian
6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
41 Andrej Meszaros – 24 Tyson Strachan
35 Anders Lindback
31 Matt Hackett