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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Derek Roy (Photo: Getty Images)
After missing practice Monday afternoon with a groin strain, Derek Roy returned to the ice today- with some new linemates.

Typically paired with left winger Thomas Vanek, Roy instead centered Clarke MacArthur and Drew Stafford on Tuesday morning at HSBC Arena.

Roy and Vanek have experienced palpable chemistry the last two seasons. On the same line in 2007-08 they combined for 145 points, including 68 goals, and have fed off each other the way that Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht have throughout their careers.

So why break them up now?

The reason was simple according to Head Coach Lindy Ruff:

“Derek has three even strength points,” he said.

With only two goals through 17 games this season Ruff has asked for more production from his top center who finished the 2007-08 campaign with 32 goals and 81 points – especially during five-on-five play. With 10 points on the year, Roy is failing to score away from the power play. He has tallied a goal and six helpers with the man advantage.

“It wasn’t working anymore and it needed to be changed. Derek’s game needs to be better,” Ruff said.

In particular Ruff demanded more from the line following the Sabres’ 6-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 14 in which Roy and Vanek each held a minus-three rating.

“The bottom line is that the even strength play from that line wasn’t good enough. We were getting scored against and there was nothing on the offensive side of it,” Ruff said. “That was an easy decision to blow that up.”

Vanek practiced today alongside Hecht and Pominville with the absence of Tim Connolly.

Connolly has an upper body musculoskeletal injury and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. The centerman was injured on Nov. 12 during the team’s 4-3 win against the St. Louis Blues after taking a hard hit from winger Keith Tkachuk. Click here for more.

With Ales Kotalik also sidelined, out for two weeks with a pulled hamstring, the Sabres were forced to change lines, in part accounting for the breakup of Vanek and Roy.

Ruff said there have not yet been discussions on bringing a forward up from the team’s AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates, but added “anything is possible.”

The remaining lines at practice today consisted of Adam Mair centering Dan Paille and Maxim Afinogenov while Paul Gaustad played between Pat Kaleta and Andrew Peters.

“You look at it there have been some good games,” Ruff said of Roy. “But there has been some inconsistency in the play. There have been times where he has tried way to hard to try way too much… his special teams play has been pretty good, his five-on-five play is an area that needs to be cleaned up.”

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