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Too many forwards, not enough spots

When Sabres training camp opens next week, at least 16 forwards are likely to think they will earn a starting job. One problem: Only 12 are available.

The Sabres simply have too many forwards capable of playing in the NHL (though the effectiveness of each is open to debate). The Sabres enter September having failed to weed out their numbers, so competition for the 12 starting jobs will be a major focus when the players return to HSBC Arena.

The top six spots are virtually assured. Tim Connolly figures to center left wing Thomas Vanek and right wing Jason Pominville, while Derek Roy is likely to be in the middle of Jochen Hecht and the still-unsigned Drew Stafford. Hecht’s performance and stock dropped last season, but he has a staunch supporter in coach Lindy Ruff, who likely will start the left winger in a prominent role to see if he can rebound.

The third and fourth lines are expected to feature the fiercest competition. Center Paul Gaustad and right wing Mike Grier seem to form a formidable pair for the third unit, leaving the left wing spot open (though this is where I'd put Hecht). Patrick Kaleta is effective in his fourth-line agitator role, but there’s no clear-cut favorite to be his center and left winger.

There certainly are plenty of candidates, though.

Four returning veterans are among the contenders: Adam Mair, Daniel Paille, Clarke MacArthur and Matt Ellis. Three hopefuls are intent on jumping from the American Hockey League to the big leagues: Tim Kennedy, Nathan Gerbe and Mark Mancari.

Something’s got to give.

Here's what I'd go with to start:

Vanek-Connolly-Pominville

Gerbe-Roy-Stafford

Hecht-Gaustad-Grier

Kennedy-Mair-Kaleta

Ellis would be fine as the 13th forward, while I'd see what a package including MacArthur and Paille would bring.

---John Vogl

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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