SUNRISE, FLORIDA – Michal Neuvirth
has had to wait for his next start, but the netminder will get the nod when the Buffalo Sabres take on the Florida Panthers on Saturday at BB&T Center.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan rode the hot hand of goaltender Jhonas Enroth for six games in a row and the team went 4-2-0 in that stretch.
Neuvirth will now make his first appearance his Nov. 18. He left that game after the first period due to a bruised knee. Neuvirth missed only one game but Enroth’s strong play kept him between the pipes.
“It’s one thing when a guy’s going really well and you’ve got to go with him,” Nolan said. “But then there comes a point where you don’t want to overplay him and then all of a sudden, the other one can get rusty on you too. There’s a balancing act. Hopefully right now Michal’s ready to go and give Jhonas a well-deserved rest.”
Neuvirth, who is 3-5-1 with a 2.85 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage this season, has been patient and has stayed prepared. He’s enjoyed the goaltending competition so far and has liked seeing Enroth also perform so well.
“He’s been working hard all season long and he’s been playing really good,” Neuvirth said. “You can tell he’s got a lot of confidence right now and that’s a big part of our game. I’ve got to work hard in practice and when I get a chance, I’ve got to be good.”
A HARD SKATE
The Sabres dropped a 5-0 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday in the first game of their two-game Florida road trip and will look to get back on the winning side of things against Florida.
Buffalo was coming off a three-game winning streak and they spent much of Friday’s practice trying to get back to the basics and focusing on what worked well for them during that stretch.
“It’s very to say, oh well, you won six of seven or six of eight or whatever it is. It’s just a little blip but I liked what was brought today,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. “It shows that’s not acceptable and that we’re not going to sit back and be content with where we are.”
Nolan skated the team hard, ending the practice by having the players skate the width of the ice multiple times, back and forth and back again and then doing pushups after each rep.
“I just believe that if you want your team to work hard, you’ve got to work your team hard. Ever since we started doing that, we’ve started getting better results,” he said. “We skated them at the end a little bit but we’ve got all day and tonight. We’re not going to pregame skate tomorrow. So we have more than 24 hours to get well rested and get ready to play again.”
ONE IN, ONE OUT
Drew Stafford is ready to return from a lower-body injury that’s kept him out of the line for the past three games.
Chris Stewart played 9:20 in the loss to Tampa with two shots blocked, but none on goal. He was the extra skater at Friday’s practice. Nolan said he has not yet decided which player will serve as the healthy scratch on Saturday.
“We try to be as honest and straight forward as we possibly can,” Nolan said. “Certain players have to play a certain way. That’s every team in the League. If you don’t you’re not as effective as you should be. Stewie’s a good player. He’s a real good player. We just need to get him playing the way Stewie can.”
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta – 80 Chris Stewart
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Mike Weber – 24 Tyson Strachan
61 Andre Benoit
34 Michal Neuvirth
1 Jhonas Enroth