By John Vogl
The doubts kept growing for Ville Leino. He figured he was destined for hip surgery and would not play a game this season.
Then he skated today, and his outlook changed.
Leino took part in the Sabres' optional morning skate in First Niagara Center, and the winger left the ice feeling better than he has all year.
"I felt surprisingly good," Leino said. "It was definitely positive. We’ll try to build on that, and we’ll see later on today and tomorrow how it recovers from that. It's really definitely felt the best I’ve felt so far.
"To be honest with you, before today I was having my doubts. It’s not like I can say now I’ll play in a couple days or so, but today I really was positive and feel good about it. Now I’m trusting more it will happen soon."
Leino has been sidelined for all of Buffalo's 6-11-1 campaign, a disappointing start that led to the firing of coach Lindy Ruff on Wednesday. Leino, who played in Detroit and Philadelphia, hopes the move changes the team's priorities.
"What I like about it is we’re doing an effort," Leino said. "We’re trying to make it better, doing moves to make the team better. It’s a signal to the players, too, that we want to win and we’re doing everything we can.
"It’s pro hockey and we’ve got to demand more out of coaches, players and out of everybody. One of the things here I’ve noticed just being here over a year is we’ve got to have higher demands, higher priorities on the games and working better, keeping each other accountable here.
"It’s not always a happy family. You’ve got to have some controversy, some guys pushing each other. It’s not all smiles and happy and be nice – because nice guys usually finish last."