DALLAS – The NHL Trade Deadline comes at 3 p.m. on Wednesday and more changes to the Buffalo Sabres roster may lie ahead.
For now, the team is riding a three-game winning streak and is looking to make it four in a row Monday night against the Dallas Stars at 8 p.m. EST at American Airlines Center. The Sabres will get Tyler Ennis back on their top line after he missed the past two games with what interim coach Ted Nolan described as general body soreness.
Ennis will skate with Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford while newly acquired Chris Stewart will play on a line with center Cody Hodgson and wing Matt D’Agostini. Jhonas Enroth will start in goal.
Moulson, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, did not take the morning skate because – as Nolan clarified afterward – the skate was optional. Nolan then confirmed that Moulson will play against Dallas.
Ennis will look to extend his three-game point streak. He also has seven points in his past seven games and feels like he’s playing some of the best hockey of his career.
“I think I’m playing well,” he said. “Been out a couple games so I’ve got to get better. I can’t be content with how it’s going.”
Nolan, for one, is very happy to have Ennis back in the lineup.
“It’s huge. He’s one of our better players and especially the way he’s been playing,” he said. “If you look at the way Drew Stafford’s been playing and Matty Moulson, I think it’s a direct impact of the way their center iceman’s been playing and that was Tyler Ennis.”
Stewart, having come from St. Louis, is pretty familiar with his former divisional rival. Stars captain Jamie Benn has 54 points (23+31) in 60 games this year and has nine points in his past 10 home games.
“I know they’re a high-powered offensive team who likes to play up the rush,” Stewart said. “They’ve got some goaltenders too and Jamie Benn’s coming off a gold medal and he’s definitely been feeling it lately. It’s going to be a true test tonight.”
The Sabres haven’t won three games in a row this season until this point and the streak may not have come at a better time for them. With trades and front office shakeups, the team has been able to maintain its focus and win hockey games.
“For a time that’s pretty anxious and nerve-wracking, we’ve had a couple good games, anyways,” Ennis said. “We’re having fun and dealing with it the best we can.”
Despite the tough times now, some players like Hodgson are looking forward to brighter days with the organization when they can realize all this hardship will have been worth it.
“It’s definitely a character-building year, that’s for sure,” he said. “For all the guys that have been through it together, we’re all going to look back on it in a few years and hopefully laugh.”
Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who served as the Sabres bench boss for parts of 14 seasons, will go for his 600th regular-season win. Ruff is 599-454-172 in 1,225 games coached.
Dallas currently holds the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with 66 points. Winnipeg and Vancouver also have 66 points, but the Stars have games in hand. Ruff is focused on holding onto that spot and not allowing Buffalo to play the role of spoiler.
“For me, I just want to win. I don’t care if it’s 520, 450, 601,” he said. “We’re in one hell of a battle here. The two points is really important to us. We have a couple games in hand that we have to take care of and that’s the most important thing.”
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
80 Chris Stewart – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agsotini
82 Marcus Foligno – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 65 Brian Flynn
37 Matt Ellis – 23 Ville Leino – 8 Cody McCormick
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 32 John Scott
6 Mike Weber – 57 Tyler Myers
20 Henrik Tallinder – 4 Jamie McBain
1 Jhonas Enroth
41 Jaroslav Halak