SUNRISE, FLA. -- A lingering injury combined with a pair of suspensions will force the Buffalo Sabres to dress only 11 forwards and seven defensemen for tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers.
Henrik Tallinder will be the lone scratch on the blueline, and Jamie McBain will return after being a healthy scratch in Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Boston. Following a two-game absence with a leg injury, forward Cody McCormick has been activated from Injured Reserve and is expected to start the game as part of Buffalo’s two-man fourth line along with Drew Stafford.
Sabres head coach Ron Rolston understands the challenge of juggling an extra defenseman, but also realizes he’s in a tough spot with the 23-man roster.
“We’ll rotate seven guys back there. But that’s kind of where we’re at with the roster,” explained Rolston following today’s morning skate at the BB&T Center. “We’ll have seven back there, and if anything happens up front, then we can move a guy up there.”
Ville Leino has been skating for the past few days and had hoped to come off IR this weekend, but he’ll remain out while nursing a rib injury that has sidelined him for the past 10 games. Rolston categorized Leino as a possibility for Monday’s home game against Dallas.
“It’s basically about him getting back in shape now, and being comfortable doing what he’s gotta do when he’s playing,” said Rolston. “That’s taking hits and getting hit. And if he’s gonna have the puck he’s gonna get hit. So he’s gotta be ready for that and comfortable with that, so it’s probably going to be next week.”
Forwards Patrick Kaleta (seventh game missed) and John Scott (first game) are both out of the Buffalo lineup due to their respective suspensions. Kaleta traveled with the Sabres and took part in today’s skate, while Scott remained in Buffalo.
Jhonas Enroth will get the start in goal for Buffalo tonight, and it will be the first time he’s ever faced the Panthers. Enroth’s counterpart in the Florida cage will be fellow Swede Jacob Markstrom.
Forward Kevin Porter was placed on waivers Thursday, and was assigned to Rochester today after officially clearing as of 12 Noon. Rolston thinks very highly of Porter, and said the decision to waive him was a difficult one.
“It’s always the toughest thing you have to do, to cut somebody or waive somebody, whatever the case may be. I have a lot of respect for [Kevin]. He came here last year when I got here, and worked really hard for us and played really well. He’s a guy that brings it every day and battles, and he’s a real good teammate.
“It’s a difficult thing, but it’s kind of where we’re at. Especially with the amount of young guys that are getting opportunity here. It’s a tough thing and I know he’ll land on his feet and have a good attitude about it and keep working.”
The Panthers are midway through a season-high six-game homestand at BB&T Center, going 1-1-1 through the first three. Their last game was a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Tuesday, after having battled back from a two-goal deficit in the third period. Rookie Aleksander Barkov is second on the Panthers in scoring with seven points (3+4) in 10 games, numbers that rank him third among NHL freshmen.
The Sabres have swept nine of their 30 Florida/Tampa Bay road trips in franchise history, including six of the last 14 since 2005. Buffalo has a record of 19-8-1 in the Sunshine State during this time, and they are 6-3-1 in the last 10 on the road against the Panthers.
Tonight’s game opens Buffalo’s third of 13 sets of back-to-back games this season. The Sabres are 0-2-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 1-1-0 in the second game this season. Buffalo’s point breakdown in back-to-back sets this season is: four points (0), three points (0), two points (1), one point (0) and zero points (1).