After winning his first game as a member of the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, Michal Neuvirth has earned another start between the pipes.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan said that Neuvirth will play Tuesday night when the Sabres take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m. at Air Canada Centre.
Jhonas Enroth came out of training camp as the No. 1 goalie, but the competition never ended and Buffalo will ride the hot hand.
“He certainly earned the right to start the season. Jhonas played well throughout the whole training camp and certainly deserved that right. And he’s continued to play well,” Nolan said. “The [Anaheim] game [on Wednesday], we put in Neuvirth because we just felt back-to-back games and then all of a sudden, he came out and had a great game.
“It’s not like we’ve given up on Jhonas. It’s just the hot goaltender right now, you’ve got to go with him.”
Enroth is 1-5-0 this season with a .914 save percentage and a 3.13 goals against average. Neuvirth, acquired in a trade with Washington in March, is 1-2-0 with a .916 save percentage and a 3.02 goals against average this year.
Neuvirth stopped 29 shots in that win against the Sharks and became the 35th goaltender to record a victory for the Sabres. He has a .927 save percentage in five games with the team.
Playing in Toronto means Neuvirth will have played three of the past four games.
GOOD NEWS FROM COLUMBUS
Marcus Foligno moved back to wing after playing center for the game against San Jose on Saturday. Before practice, however, his mind was focused on a more personal matter.
Foligno’s brother Nick, a forward for the Columbus Blue Jackets, was injured Sunday night in Los Angeles when his head collided with the hip of the linesman along the bench. The training staff called for a stretcher and he was carted off the ice.
Nick flew back home with the team after the game. He told reporters Monday morning that he felt some numbness after the hit but he had an MRI performed in Columbus and everything has been cleared with the medical staff.
Foligno said he was watching the game with family when the incident occurred and he was able to talk to some of Columbus’ training staff to receive more information on his brother’s condition. He spoke with Nick after the game.
“Obviously you never want to see that. You see it with other players, but it’s different when it’s a family member and your brother,” Foligno said. “I’m happy he’s OK and going to make a full recover, so it’s all good.”
WATCH: INTERVIEW WITH MARCUS FOLIGNO
During the Sabres’ practice at First Niagara Center on Monday, Foligno almost had a scary incident of his own. Going down on a 2-on-1 drill with Chris Stewart, Foligno went hard to the net and crashed into goaltender Michal Neuvrith, dislodging the net from its moorings. He got up without any trouble.
“It was a tough practice. It’s one of those things you’ve just got to get back into it. I drove hard to the net, Neuvy put a body check on me and I dodged the post,” Foligno said. “It was a close call.”
MONDAY’S PRACTICE LINEUP
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 80 Chris Stewart
82 Marcus Foligno – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 12 Brian Gionta
19 Cody Hodgson – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 21 Drew Stafford
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 23 Sam Reinhart – 8 Cody McCormick – 65 Brian Flynn – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 41 Andrej Meszaros
61 Andre Benoit – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 24 Tyson Strachan
Patrick Kaleta practiced for the first time since sustaining a face injury on Sept. 28 without a red, non-contact injury. He was a full participant, skating with the fourth line while still wearing a full-face shield. He won’t make the trip to Toronto, but is getting closer to returning to action.
Nolan said that rookie Sam Reinhart will play against Toronto. He’s played in seven games this season and recorded his first point – an assist – on Saturday in San Jose.
Torrey Mitchell moved to center with the hopes that he’ll help Cody Hodgson create more offense. Hodgson scored his first goal of the season against the Sharks.
“He’s had experience there and he’s skating very well for us. Maybe he can get out on the forecheck a lot better and a lot quicker for Cody to open the ice for him.”
Power Play Units
GROWING AS A TEAM
The week-long West Coast trip allowed the players to spend some time together away from the rink and those moments can go a long way toward building chemistry. Buffalo started the season with 10 players who weren’t on the roster for the team’s final game last year. Nolan said that forging that bond can take time.
“Sometimes it takes more than a month, more than two months, more than three months. Sometimes it takes a little while to adapt a whole culture change. You don’t do those things overnight,” Nolan said. “You look at the Pittsburgh Penguins, what they went through. You look at the Chicago Blackhawks, what they went through.
“Every organization, when you’re going through a transitional period, it’s not going to be last to first overnight in too many cases. Here, we’re doing it the old-fashioned way – nice and slow and methodical and developing. Changing the culture goes with that – and how we practice.
“We talk about guys like Josh Gorges. You bring in people like that and they slowly start turning the attitude and the culture around. I’m not saying it’s going to take a long, long time, but it’s going to take longer than a month.”
The team held onto a 2-1 lead Saturday against San Jose. Gorges said that sticking with a good effort allowed them to stay in games against the Ducks and Kings and helped them find a way to win against San Jose.
“We have to be comfortable in those one-goal games,” he said. “There aren’t too many games where you see 6-1, 5-0 games. They’re usually one, two-goal games so when we have that lead in the last 10 minutes, last five, last two minutes, we’ve got to be comfortable in that situation and know that we can still go out there and play.”