TAMPA – In the midst of a six-game losing, streak, Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan is going to try some new line combinations Friday night.
However, what new lines form will be a mystery until pregame warmups. The puck is set to drop at 7:30 p.m. against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.
The Tops Gamenight pregame show begins at 7 p.m. on MSG-B. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
After an early afternoon meeting, Nolan revealed that they’ll ice new lines, new defensive pairings and a new goaltender as Michal Neuvrith will start for the first time in two games. Most notably, the coaching staff will break up the top line of center Zemgus Girgensons, left wing Matt Moulson and right wing Tyler Ennis.
“When things are going the way they’re going right now, you have to make changes,” Nolan said. “We’re limited with the changes we can do, but we can mix and match.”
Nolan had each of his assistant coaches draw up with their own line combinations on the flight to Tampa and he’ll likely go with the same configurations he and Danny Flynn came up with separately.
Nolan would like to see a stronger focus from the group so that they can avoid meltdowns similar to the ones they’ve experienced over the past three games.
To start the current road trip in New York on Saturday, the Sabres gave up four goals in the first period to the Rangers. Then on Tuesday, the Devils opened the game with three goals in the first period. Carolina scored four goals in the second period on Thursday with three of them coming in a span of 1:19.
“We’ve been in games and then all of a sudden the game turns and then we’re down,” Ennis said. “We haven’t been going down with a fight either, though. We’ve been reverting back to the beginning of the season where we struggle and they take over the game and that’s it.”
The line Ennis was on has combined for only three goals and two assists in the seven games since Moulson returned from having the flu. None of them have a point over the past four games. Ennis has two goals and six assists in his past 15 games.
To generate more offense, the team will look to simplify their style of play and turn their frustrations into positives.
“We’ve got to wash ourselves of what’s been going on. We’ve just got to change. We’ve got to move past it, but it’s going to come down to the simple things,” Ennis said. “Hockey, for the most part, it’s a simple game. It’s kind of a boring game now.
“You look at L.A., the way they win, they chip it in and they work it down low and that’s how they get their chances. That’s what we’ve got to do. We can’t turn pucks over. We’ve got to get it in, create chances and be smart.”
Drew Stafford is once again trying to make it to the game after going home before Tuesday’s game to celebrate the birth of his first child. Nolan said Stafford on his way and hopefully will make it to Tampa in time. Weather issues caused him to miss the game against the Hurricanes on Thursday.
Only Neuvirth, goaltender Jhonas Enroth and defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Strachan took the ice before Friday’s meeting.