Despite some new faces in the locker room, Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff has decided to keep one line from last season intact during this year’s training camp. The combination of center Paul Gaustad and wingers Nathan Gerbe
and Patrick Kaleta
is back together and it looks like it will remain that way during the preseason.
“We feed off each other pretty well,” Gaustad said. “We fill each other’s position well. If it’s not me in front of the net, it’s Patty or Gerbs, so it’s reading off each other and switching positions.”
After a slow start to the 2010-11 season in which didn’t score a goal until his Dec. 21, Gerbe took off with and finished with 16 goals and 31 points. The second half surge helped him earn a new three-year contract in the offseason. Most of those points came when he was playing on a line with Gaustad.
Last season, the line gave opponents trouble with their aggressive style of play and willingness to be physical in the offensive zone.
“[Gaustad and Kaleta are] big bodies that go to the front of the net. They forecheck hard. It’s my job to get open,” Gerbe said. “I think that’s what makes us a good unit and we’re going to try to keep improving.”
Kaleta is coming off a season in which he missed 31 games battling various injuries but came back to score three points in six playoff games against the Philadelphia Flyers. Gaustad finished the 2010-11 campaign with 12 goals and 31 points, his highest point total since 2007-08.
“I have high expectations for myself and I have high expectations for my teammates. So I think we’re going to hold each other to that,” Gaustad said. “That’s the start of training camp, holding those high expectations for each other around here and pushing each other. And then that goes with leadership and I think that’s the part that’s going to make us better.”
Gaustad and his linemates will be playing tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes in the team’s first preseason game. Ruff said after yesterday’s practice that he would like each game’s roster to include a variety of both veterans and prospects.
“With five games in seven nights, we’re going to have to use a lot of personnel. We don’t want to overuse anybody,” Ruff said. “You’re going to see probably a good mix of a veteran team and young players, probably half and half.”
Gametime is scheduled for 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center. It will also be streamed live at www.sabres.com.
-No changes were made to yesterday’s practice groups. The same groups and combinations took the ice today.
-Center Jochen Hecht
left practice with an injury to his lip, but returned a few minutes later after receiving treatment. However, he did not participate in the second half of his group’s practice.
-Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn has been wearing No. 8 during training camp. He wore No. 27 for the Sabres last season.
-Today was the last training camp session at the Northtown Center in Amherst, N.Y. The remainder of camp will be held at First Niagara Center.