By Mike Harrington
PHILADELPHIA -- Jordan Leopold dropped to minus-7 in the Feb. 17 loss to Pittsburgh, the game that saw him draw Lindy Ruff's ire when he sloughed off Pascual Dupuis on the Penguins' tying goal in the third period. Two nights later against Winnipeg, Leopold was a healthy scratch for the first time in his three years as a Sabre. The next day, he was hurt in practice -- and Ruff got fired.
So Leopold has sat by for the last nine games as Ron Rolston has tried to steer the Sabres on a new course. He's finally going to get his chance here tonight.
Leopold is going back in the lineup for the game against the Philadelphia Flyers although Rolston wouldn't say for who. Leopold is on injured reserve and the Sabres have to make a roster move to make room for him. No one was missing from today's morning skate, although Adam Pardy skated extra and could be headed back to Rochester again.
(6:15 p.m. update: The Sabres announce Pardy has been loaned back to the Amerks)
"I got healthy, hurt myself the next practice and there's a new coach coming in and you want to make an impression," Leopold said. "To be out is a little deflating at the start. To get back where I need to be and get a fresh start is a good thing. I just want to keep things simple and move forward with the rest of the guys."
"He's a good puck mover and that's what we've been emphasizing a lot from our D corps," Rolston said of Leopold. "He'll be one of those guys who can get us out of the zone."
Leopold said he's looking forward to seeing how the atmosphere is on the bench under Rolston, pointing out "it's all new to me." Then he talked about what he's heard and there were clear shots at Lindy Ruff in his words.
"I get my first experience with it tonight. The biggest thing we're talking about is stay composed, stay positive," Leopold said. "This game is 90 percent mental. If you're going good, you're OK there. If you're not, you have to find a way to get going. If we're negative all the time, really on guys, it's not going to work in our favor."
Leopold had an undisclosed upper-body injury. He said it was not related to taking a puck on the left hand during Ruff's last practice, but that it was a different injury that happened earlier in the same workout.
Rolston keeps waffling on Andrej Sekera's status the last couple days, saying it's "a possibility" Sekera plays tonight. Rolston confirmed John Scott would play and said players missing from the optional skate (Thomas Vanek, Christian Ehrhoff, Steve Ott and Robyn Regher) would all play. Rolston said "not sure yet" when asked if he was returning Jochen Hecht to the lineup to replace Mikhail Grigorenko, who stayed for some extra work. Hecht did it, usually a sign he's playing.
The Flyers did not skate so confirmation comes later today on the Michael Leighton situation in goal.