Head Coach Lindy Ruff is eager to get started – and find the right fit – as training camp gets underway.
As the veterans reported to HSBC Arena on Friday morning, the Buffalo Sabres’ bench boss said he is looking forward to testing out a few scenarios with new blood in the organization.
“I look forward to watching the players perform in the scrimmage situations and getting them in practice,” Ruff said. “You put some lines together; some individuals together that you think will work. Training camp and preseason games are a great time for that.”
There are a few players in particular that have sparked some intrigue for Ruff as they begin to fight for a permanent spot on the roster; Namely, Tyler Ennis
and Nathan Gerbe
– who both enjoyed stints with the Sabres last season, and are looking for a bigger role. He also named Patrick Kaleta
as a player who he is hoping to find more responsibility for, “because if you punch his numbers through a regular season, he could be a 16, 17 goal guy.”
With the acquisitions of forward Rob Niedermayer and defensemen Shaone Morrisonn and Jordon Leopold, Ruff is ultimately looking for better combinations.
“When you look around what works in the League and what lines work, it’s usually two really skilled guys with maybe a guy that has some grit and net-front presence,” he said. “We’re looking at those things… We’ve stuck a few guys in the lineup… that are 6-3 and 6-4 and have some grit. We feel that size with some of our smaller skilled guys will be a good fit.”
He believes finding that fit will lead to improvements.
“We had some guys [last season] that didn’t achieve what we thought they’d get to, although we had a good year,” Ruff said. “I think part of it was that we really went to a four-line format. The schedule was so compact that maybe the top players at times didn’t get the ice time that maybe would have pushed their numbers a little bit higher… But we’re looking for big years out of no different individuals. I think [Thomas] Vanek will have a better year, I think [Drew] Stafford will have a better year, and that will lead to better offense.
“I think we can be better and I think we have some individuals who will be better. We’ve got some guys that have made some tremendous strides. You look at a player like Ennis who we feel that with a good camp can turn into a special player, so there are some good things going on: Plus the fact that we’ve got [Tyler] Myers who won the Rookie of the Year and we’ve got our goalie [Ryan Miller
] who obviously won in his position. We’ve got some good things going on.”
The Sabres will hold their first full day of training camp on Saturday with Puck Drop festivities. The on-ice session is free and open to the public. Click here for more information.