RALEIGH, N.C. – The Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes are set to meet for the third and final time this season Thursday night in Raleigh.
Both teams held optional skates Thursday morning at PNC Arena.
Sabres defenseman Alexander Sulzer, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury skated again with the team. Interim coach Ted Nolan said he’s ready to play and will be in the Sabres lineup when the puck drops at 7 p.m.
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel also skated with the team, but he might be headed back to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. Ruhwedel was recalled on an emergency basis due to the number of injuries Buffalo has been dealing with in the past week.
After the skate, Nolan wasn’t sure of the technicalities regarding Ruhwedel’s recall and if the team would have to send him back to the Amerks right away. They could also elect to keep him up by using one of their four recalls available to them from now until the end of the season.
Michal Neuvirth will start in goal, marking his second appearance in a Sabres uniform. He stopped 42 shots in his first game with Buffalo, a 2-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Friday.
Nolan skated the team hard back in Buffalo on Wednesday before flying out to Carolina. He wasn’t satisfied with the effort he was seeing from the players and called for some bag skating drills.
How did he think they responded?
“As well as could be expected. The thing is, they’re not bad and they’re not tanking. That was not designed to do that,” Nolan said. “It was just designed to remind them that we have to work every day. It’s not whether we’re in first place or last place. It doesn’t matter. It’s how you prepare yourself and I would do the same thing if we were in first versus last. It’s just a reminder that we have to work.”
The players seem to have received that message loud and clear.
“It’s just got to start today, right away. Everybody’s got to be accountable for the team and most importantly to themselves,” forward Ville Leino said. We’ve just to work, compete. We’re not the most talented team in the League so we have to match the work ethic every night to have a chance to win games.”
Sabres defenseman Jamie McBain will play in his first game in Carolina since the Hurricanes traded him to the Sabres at the 2013 NHL Draft. Drafted by the Hurricanes in the second round (63rd overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, McBain suited up for 228 games with the club from 2009-2013. During that time, he recorded 104 points (40+64).
“It’s the first time I’ll be stepping on the ice here against them. It’s been weird obviously going through the town a little bit, getting in yesterday and driving to the hotel and just being familiar with this area,” he said. “It’s been a little surreal, but I’m excited to be back.”
Buffalo acquired McBain and a second-round pick (J.T. Compher) in the draft for defenseman Andrej Sekera.
This season, McBain has three goals and 10 assists and is working on contributing more on the offensive end of the ice.
“As of late, I guess I’m getting a few more shots and maybe a few more chances to get involved. I’m an offensive-minded guy,” he said. “That’s a part of my game that I definitely want to bring to the team so it’s been a little bit of a struggle trying to find it. It’s one of those things, but every day you have to come to the rink to work and hopefully today you’ll get the bounce and then things just kind of start to go your way.”
Leino has 12 assists on the season, but is still looking for his first goal.
He said he scored a bulk of his goals in Detroit and Philadelphia off tips and rebounds near the net. The opportunity for those types of plays haven’t been as abundant in Buffalo this season and at the same time, he’s been focusing on setting his teammates up for goals.
So while he said he thinks his line with Nicolas Deslauriers and Brian Flynn has generated some good scoring chances, he’ll look to put the puck on net more frequently.
“I need to shoot more. That’s one thing,” Leino said. “…I was trying to shoot a little more last game. I’m going to have a shooting stick today and try to shoot because that’s the only way you can score because we’re not able to make nice plays right now. We’ve just got to try to throw it to the net and hope for rebounds”
Leino also said that he’s feeling healthy and his hip, which has been a source of discomfort for him in the past, his feeling fine.
Deslauriers, 23, has found a place on the Sabres power play. He’s manned the point on the second unit with McBain the past few games. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings organization at the trade deadline and made his NHL debut against Florida on Friday.
Nolan has been happy with his energy level and skill set.
“He just came into a perfect situation where he’s played defense before, he has a great shot,” Nolan said. “The one thing we don’t do on our power play enough is shoot the puck. Hopefully by putting him back there, he can put himself in a position and look to let that cannon go and maybe we’ll get a power-play goal.”
88 Cory Conacher – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 23 Ville Leino – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 24 Zenon Konopka – 37 Matt Ellis
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 52 Alexander Sulzer
6 Mike Weber – 57 Tyler Myers
20 Henrik Tallinder – 4 Jamie McBain
34 Michal Neuvirth
1 Jhonas Enroth