The Sabres made it official this morning: Mike Weber will make his season debut tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers while Marc-Andre Gragnani will sit.
"The bottom line is I need [Weber] to play before he gets so frustrated we lose him and that is the bottom line," said coach Lindy Ruff. "He's worked hard. A player gets to the point where you've got to get him in. He was an important part of our team. He played good minutes. He played hard. They got some players we'd like to play hard against so this game is a good fit for him."
Weber will play with Robyn Regehr, a player whose physical style he idolized as a youth hockey player. Tyler Myers will play with Andrej Sekera while Christian Ehrhoff will skate with Jordan Leopold. Ruff wouldn't discuss the switch in pairings, other than to say the reasons were "nothing bad."
Weber played 58 games for the Sabres last year and was a regular from Thanksgiving on. Gragnani has no goals, three assists and is a plus-3 but has struggled of late and been unable to pump life into the team's sagging power play.
"We had him on the right [side] which is not a comfortable position for him," Ruff said. "I don't know he'd admit to that but we tried him there and it takes more than 10 games to get used to playing the off side. Some guys never like playing the off side. ... You open up your body different and you're a little bit blind when you're making passes up ice."
Ville Leino, meanwhile, was reunited with the Philadelphia media and talked at length about some of his struggles with the Sabres. There wasn't much new ground broken that Leino hasn't already opened up about with Buffalo reporters, except near the end of the interview when Leino was asked if Ruff is tougher to play for than Flyers boss Peter Laviolette.
Said a laughing Leino: "Obviously I'm not going to say yeah because he's going to read this. It's been a little different, it's different between coaches and systems and players. Everybody is getting used to everybody. I'm just trying to work every day to get better. I'm sure he doesn't know me as a player as well as he wants to either so we'll work here every day."
Leino said he had dinner last night with ex-Philly teammates Scott Hartnall and Kimmo Timonen. Click below to hear the gameday chats of Leino and Ruff.