|Maxim Afinogenov (Photo: Bill Wippert) |
Lindy Ruff made it clear that if players weren’t producing, they would have to take a seat on the bench.
The Sabres’ Head Coach held true to his word today, opting to scratch winger Maxim Afinogenov and defenseman Henrik Tallinder for tonight’s match-up against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I told the players we’re not going the easy route any more. Our grit guys that are playing gritty aren’t coming out,” Ruff said.
Taking their place in the lineup are Mark Mancari, who was recalled from the AHL Portland Pirates, and Nathan Paetsch, who has been a healthy scratch for the last seven games.
“It’s about how hard you’re playing and if you’re not playing well enough you’re going to have to come out,” Ruff said. “I’m not going to have an extra defenseman sitting there when we have lack of focus, or lack of determination in some situations. It’s tough.”
In particular, Ruff was unhappy with Tallinder’s giveaway in the first period of Buffalo’s 7-4 loss to the Bruins on Wednesday. The play led to a goal for Boston, tying the game at 1-1.
“The easy thing to do would be put him in again and say you have to play better tonight. But you take away ice time, you’re a healthy scratch and it hurts,” Ruff said. “Hank is a good guy but Hank’s not playing well enough to stay in the lineup.”
Afinogenov’s play away from the puck and overall production have been areas of concern. The winger has only one goal through 18 games this season and holds a minus-eight rating.
With Afinogenov out, Mancari looks to make an impression on the coaching staff in his first NHL game of the season. This is the first recall for the forward since a three-game stint in the 2006-07 season.
Likely playing alongside Paul Gaustad and Dan Paille, Ruff hopes that Mancari can give the Sabres’ the spark they need to find their way out of a three-game losing skid.
The 23 year old is second in the AHL with 25 points (11+14) in 14 games. He has six multi-point games this season, including a five-point (3+2) outing in Portland’s season opener on Oct. 11.
He has also been vital on the Pirates’ power play, a role that he may be in tonight against the Flyers with Ales Kotalik (hamstring) and Tim Connolly (chest) out of the lineup.
“It’s a weapon we will try to utilize,” Ruff said. “He’s a big body, he’s got a great shot… he’s a guy that will go to the front of the net and hang tough. Overall there are different ways we can use him.
“Preparation is a big thing. If you’re prepared and the opportunity comes along, you need to take advantage of it. It’s a good situation.”