Another game means another opportunity for the Buffalo Sabres to get back on the right path.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan put the team through a tough practice with a lot of skating on Wednesday. The message was that the effort level needs to increase drastically moving forward.
“The last practice, it’s kind of an eye-opener, definitely a wake-up call,” forward Drew Stafford said. “Teddy’s very gracious in giving his clean slates and saying, ‘Look, this is it. Let’s start over and tonight’s the first step.”
The Sabres take on the Boston Bruins on Thursday at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center. The Tops Gamenight pregame show begins on MSG-B and Bell TV at 6:30 p.m. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
Jhonas Enroth will start in goal against Niklas Svedberg. The two goaltenders faced off against each other on Oct. 18 at First Niagara Center with Svedberg and the Bruins coming out on top 4-0. Each goaltender made 32 saves.
The Bruins are a little banged up and they have a few big holes to fill on the blue line with Zdeno Chara (out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury) and Torey Krug (out 2-3 weeks with a broken finger) on the injury report. Forward Brad Marchand will be a game-time decision.
Based on the lines the team used at practice on Wednesday, expect some changes against the Bruins. Tyler Ennis centered Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford; Cody McCormick was between Marcus Foligno and Chris Stewart; Torrey Mitchell was back on the wing with Zemgus Girgensons at center and Brian Gionta at right wing.
The fourth line featured five players – Sam Reinhart, Nicolas Deslauriers, Cody Hodgson, Brian Flynn and Patrick Kaleta (who is still recovering from injury). It’s likely that Reinhart will center Deslauriers and Hodgson.
Nolan said the team will make a change on defense. He wouldn’t divulge who would be in or out Thursday morning because he had not yet informed the players of the decision.
ALMOST DECISION TIME
The game will mark Reinhart’s ninth NHL contest and due to his junior eligibility, a decision will have to be made as to whether he’ll stick with the Sabres or be sent back to his junior club in Kootenay. If he plays in a 10th game, the first year of his entry-level contract will kick in.
Reinhart thinks he’s learned a lot from the experience so far, but isn’t thinking past Thursday’s game.
“It’s good but my focus is the same as it’s always been no matter what the timeframe is,” he said. “I’m looking forward to tonight, put another good effort in and hopefully we can win.”
Stafford said that Reinhart has a good head on his shoulders and that he’s been eager to soak up as much as information as he can.
“He’s a great kid. He wants to learn a lot. You can tell the skill’s there,” Stafford said. “It’s awesome having him around because I remember being that young. The situation he’s in right now with what’s been going on with the team, it can’t get any harder than that – the amount of adversity he’s dealing with right now with all the losing. That’s tough on a young guy.
“For him to get those kinds of lessons early on is good because later on in his career, he’ll be able to pull that out of the resources and realize, ‘What did I do that worked? What did I do that didn’t work?’ That can help him moving forward.”
Reinhart hasn’t gotten any indication as to what the organization may decide and he doesn’t want to even hazard a guess as to what they may do. Nolan said he’ll meet with general manager Tim Murray after Thursday’s game for another discussion about him. The general sense is they’ll do what they feel is best for the rookie’s development.
“Every player’s different. Some are ready, some are not,” Nolan said. “There are pros and cons to either one, but I’ve never seen too many players ruined by sending them back rather than keeping them too soon.”
EFFORT PAYS OFF
Sabres captain Brian Gionta hopes the team can develop better habits soon. They ended their three-game California road trip by gutting out a win in San Jose, but then they came back Monday night with a franchise-low 10 shots in their 4-0 loss in Toronto.
“It’s something that builds. We thought as a team, we were coming out of that, working hard, playing the right way on that West Coast trip,” Gionta said. “We didn’t always get rewarded for it, but we finally broke free at the end and had a good effort and got rewarded with a win.
“We want to get back to that. When we’re playing like that, we look like a team, we’re playing like a team, we’re on the same page and it’s much easier to play that way, a lot less work doing it that way.”