RALEIGH, N.C. – The Buffalo Sabres wrap up their preseason schedule Friday and the coaching staff is still tinkering with the roster in order to find the right combinations heading into the season opener in Detroit on Oct. 2.
Injuries have played a part in how the lineup will look against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. The morning skate featured different line combinations and defensive pairings – some of which haven’t been tested durng games yet – including some players in less familiar positions. Faceoff is at 7 p.m. from PNC Arena.
Steve Ott was lined up on the right side on the top line with Cody Hodgson and Thomas Vanek. He’s played left wing during the preseason.
“We’re trying to get some people who will be good guys for chemistry and are abrasive and [Ott’s] one of those players for us,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after practice. “With the injuries we’ve had this year, we’re just still looking for those combinations and I think he’s a guy who can go out and make space for those guys and get to the net.”
Brian Flynn, who has primarily played right wing in training camp, will be on the left wing with center Tyler Ennis and right wing Drew Stafford. Rolston said that he thinks Flynn’s versatility and speed will be assets on that line.
Flynn sees the chance to play with those more offensive-minded players as a great opportunity.
“If I’m in there, I’m excited and happy to be there. I obviously want to take advantage of it,” he said. “Wherever I’m playing, whatever line I’m on, whatever position I’m playing, it really doesn’t matter to me.”
WATCH: BRIAN FLYNN INTERVIEW
Center Kevin Porter is slated to be on the left wing of the team’s fourth line with Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta. Johan Larsson skated with John Scott and Kaleta on Wednesday and Rolston decided to go with a different look for Friday. Larsson has played in five of the team’s seven preseason games, but will be a healthy scratch against Carolina.
“We’ve seen a lot of [Larsson]. We like what he does and he like his game a lot. He’s a real bright, bright young player, very competitive and he’s got a real good future,” Rolston said. “Tonight, we’re just toying with the lineup a little bit in terms of our fourth line with Cody and Kevin Porter. Kevin’s in a little bit of a different spot, but again, just trying to find that right, total picture for our forward package going into the season.”
On defense, Rolston opted to give 2013 first-round picks Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov another game. Mike Weber will have the night off after taking a maintenance day on Thursday.
“[The Hurricanes] have the last change and those young players are going to be put in a lot of tough situations, tough matchup situations,” Rolston said. “So it was an opportunity for us to get a real good evaluation on some of those guys.”
Luke Adam and injured forwards Marcus Foligno (upper-body strain), Corey Tropp (broken jaw) and Joel Armia (broken hand) did not make the trip. Tropp and Armia are expected to miss several weeks while Foligno could be ready to go by the first game of the year.
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 9 Steve Ott
65 Brian Flynn – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 23 Ville Leino
12 Kevin Porter – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
61 Nikita Zadorov – 3 Mark Pysyk
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth
Scratched: Johan Larsson, John Scott, Jamie McBain, Alexander Sulzer, Mike Weber .