Lindy Ruff was cautiously optimistic after today's morning skate that captain Jason Pominville will play tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. Pominville, who came down with the flu on Sunday and left practice early on Monday, was not on the First Niagara Center ice this morning.
"We held him off. I think he'll be all right," Ruff said.
The coach also said he's not completely sure about Brad Boyes, who did skate after suffering a stinger to his injured ankle in practice Monday. So the line combinations, which reunited struggling Derek Roy with Thomas Vanek and included Zack Kassian on the other wing, would get changed again if Pominville is able to play.
Ruff wouldn't say if he would keep Roy with Vanek, and said that's no panacea for his No. 1 center's trouble either. Roy has two goals in his last 21 games.
"I look at how many inside opportunities a player gets and it's not whether somebody else can get him going. You've got to get yourself going," Ruff said. "And that's by getting to the inside. That's when you've got to get down on your knees and stick the puck in your teeth and crawl into the net. that's how dirty you've got to get when it isn't going as good as you want it to go."
One other good bit of news: Ville Leino skated with the team for the first time since suffering what he revealed to be a broken foot suffered when he blocked a shot Dec. 13 against Ottawa.
"It's his first time out but he skated a couple times on his own," Ruff said. "In his case, he should be able to progress pretty fast."
After a half-hour of extra skating, Leino surprised me by saying he's not ruling out Saturday's game here against Winnipeg for a return, although sometime next week is likely more realistic.
"It was a lot of fun," Leino said. "It's been a while and it's exciting to be back on the ice. Actually, I"m in a little better shape than I thought I was. They made me work to be tired and I most definitely am but it's fun."
Ryan Miller will start in goal tonight against Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin. The Oilers will be without NHL rookie scoring leader Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who suffered a shoulder injury during Monday night's 4-3 win in Chicago.