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GOALTENDING SITUATION IS SHAKEN UP AS SABRES LAND LINDBACK

by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres

The Dallas Stars were looking for a goaltender and found one in Buffalo. The Sabres and Stars swapped netminders late Wedenesday afternoon as Buffalo acquired Anders Lindback and a conditional third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft for Jhonas Enroth.

Buffalo had two pending unrestricted free agent goaltenders on their roster in Enroth and Michal Neuvirth. Sabres general manager Tim Murray said Dallas was the only team seriously looking for a goalie and when his phone rang on Wednesday, it seemed like the right time to make a deal.

Murray said he and Stars GM Jim Nill had been talking about a deal for some time now and the discussions heated up when Dallas was in town to play Buffalo on Saturday. In that game, Enroth and Lindback went head-to-head with Buffalo coming away with a 3-2 victory. Enroth made 38 saves for the Sabres while Lindback stopped 21 shots.

After the game, Murray and Nill agreed to continue negotiating on Wednesday. And as soon as Murray completed a trade with Winnipeg for Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and goaltending prospect Jason Kasdorf, he ended up back on the phone with Nill. Soon enough, the trade was completed.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff knows Enroth well from their time together with the Sabres from 2009-13. The third round pick in the trade becomes a second-round pick if Enroth wins four playoff games.

“If they’re a serious playoff team, I couldn’t think of a better spot for Jhonas to have an opportunity to play playoff games, seeing that Lindy has coached him before and obviously likes him,” Murray said. “Dallas has been a good team that maybe hasn’t been happy with their overall goaltending picture. I think he’s got a great opportunity to go in there and show what he can do.”

Murray didn’t rule out the possibility that the Sabres could pursue Enroth’s services on July 1 when the free agent market opens up.

As for the new guy, Lindback is a goaltender that takes up a lot of the net. He’s 6-foot-6 and 216 pounds with a career record of 36-43-5. He’s 2-8-0 this year with a .875 save percentage and a 3.71 goals-against average.

It will be Sabres coach Ted Nolan who will make the call as to how much playing time each goaltender will receive down the stretch. Their performances will play a large part in determining whether the Sabres want to move on with them or not.

“[Lindback is] only 26, early in his career,” Murray said. “I believe some people thought that he was the next coming of [Pekka] Rinne because he was in Nashville with the same coaches. And we do that. I mean, hockey people do that. They see this guy that looks like another guy and they don’t really go by how he plays but what he looks like and his potential.

“And he hasn’t hit his potential. At all. So this is a tryout, if you will, for him. He’s a UFA at the end of the year also. I’m sure he’ll get into games. That’s up to Teddy and the guys, but yeah, it’s a tryout for him to show us that he’s either good or he’s not good.”

Murray acquired Neuvirth at last year’s trade deadline from the Washington Capitals. This year, he’s 3-14-1 in 19 games played with a .907 save percentage and a 3.37 goals-against average.

“I think Neuvirth is a good goalie. He’s had some injury issues. He’s had Jhonas ahead of him here,” Murray said. “He’s also an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, but I think he’s capable of winning some games here for us. If that’s going to happen or not, I can’t predict that.”

Buffalo is off until Sunday when they host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on NBCSN and can be heard locally on WGR 550.

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