In an attempt to not only get back on the winning side of things but to just try and produce more offense, the Buffalo Sabres will mix up some of their line combinations.
During their current nine-game losing streak, the Sabres have been held to one goal or fewer seven times. The top line of Zemgus Girgensons at center, Matt Moulson at left wing and Tyler Ennis at right wing, which hasn’t been able to bury recent opportunities, was broken up in practice on Friday.
Torrey Mitchell will now be between Moulson and Ennis while Girgensons will center a line with Brian Flynn and Chris Stewart when Buffalo hosts the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night at First Niagara Center. The Tops Gamenight pregame show begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
“We’ve been shuffling them up a little bit here, trying to find something,” Flynn said. “Obviously what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working so we have to try to change some things.”
Buffalo is also currently in a stretch in which they’ve gone 1-12-1 over their past 14 games. Their last win was a come-from-behind victory at home against the New York Islanders on Dec. 27. The losing streak has been tough on both the players and coaches.
“When they say this game is 80 percent mental, it really is,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “Some days, we practice and we’re zipping around that puck and we’re jumping around. It looks really, really good and then all of a sudden in the game, everything kind of goes the other way.
“I think that has a lot to do with your mindset, your confidence and your belief factor. All of those things come into play and right now, things ain’t going very well. So if you believe it, that’s the way it’s going to be.”
The players hope some of the things they’ve worked on both on the ice and in the film room will pay off with victories.
“The only way we’re going to get out of this hole is to work a little harder, start creating our own breaks,” Flynn said. “You don’t lose that many in a row off bad breaks and things like that. We know it’s on us to work through it and just be better in really every aspect of the game.”
WANTING TO DO MORE
The fourth line, consisting of Matt Ellis, Nicolas Deslauriers and Patrick Kaleta may also see some extended action during the game.
Nolan spoke at length with three players on the end toward the end of the morning skate. The conversation stemmed from a comment Kaleta made on Thursday.
“Patty said something in the room the other night. He said, ‘I wish I could do more.’ So that was a good way to get that step,” Nolan said. “He wants to do more so we’ll give him a little bit more ice time and let them do a little bit more and help out.
“With those three, you know what you’re going to get and we’ll play them a little bit more.”
Mike Weber is out with an injury. He missed some time last game and did not skate during Friday’s practice. Nolan said Weber will also likely miss Sunday’s game in Detroit.
Captain Brian Gionta will also sit out the next two as he recovers from an upper-body injury. After the game against the Red Wings, Buffalo does not play again until Jan. 27 due to the All-Star break. Nolan said they’ll give Gionta the extra days of rest to make sure he’s 100 percent for the rest of the season.
Defenseman Andrej Meszaros will be a healthy scratch as Andre Benoit and Tyson Strachan return to the lineup. Michal Neuvirth will start in net.
26 Matt Moulson – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 80 Chris Stewart
19 Cody Hodgson – 84 Philip Varone – 21 Drew Stafford
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 37 Matt Ellis – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
61 Andre Benoit – 24 Tyson Strachan
34 Michal Neuvirth
1 Jhonas Enroth
Scratched: 6 Mike Weber (injured, undisclosed), 41 Andrej Meszaros
Injured Reserve: 8 Cody McCormick (blood clot), 12 Brian Gionta (upper body), 82 Marcus Foligno (hand)