By Mike Harrington
As has been mostly standard since he took over in February, Sabres coach Ron Rolston wouldn't say who will start in goal tonight against Tampa Bay but all indications are that it will be Jhonas Enroth. He came off the ice first this morning and Ryan Miller stayed on for some extended work.
Said Rolston on MIller: "He's out there today so he's ready. How did he look? Probably not as good as he did early on [in the season] but he's getting there."
Translation: Maybe Thursday against Columbus or Saturday in Chicago. But almost certainly not tonight.
What the Sabres will be showcasing for the nation tonight (it's a 7:40 puck drop on NBC Sports Network) is a new look up front to try to generate any shred of offense.
Steve Ott has been moved to the top line with Cody Hodgson and Thomas Vanek while Marcus Foligno, back from a shoulder injury, makes his season debut with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford on he line that was the talk of the NHL in March, 2012 and hasn't done much together since. Rolston said he's hoping they can "get a little of the old magic that they had."
"It's just finding the chemistry on lines and he's a guy who can make some space for us," Rolston said of Foligno. "Those are some of the things we're struggling with. We're trying to find some combinations where he have some sandpaper on some lines."
Ott said he played a couple periods on the line during the preseason finale in Carolina and agreed with Rolston's theory about spreading around the grit.
"We're trying to find something," Ott said. "Every line now has a heavy guy on each guy, a real forechecker."
"He's real grit," Hodgson said of Ott. "He's got speed and a great shot. Hopefully we can use that and it can be good for all three of us."
Two goals in three games and an 0-for-13 power play already has the team in crisis mode offensively. The Sabres have yet to score in the first 45 minutes of any game and have been outshot, 115-76.
"We're forcing too many things the game won't allow at this time," Hodgson said. "Once we get more timing, more passes on, it's a much easier game. ... Especially on the power play. There's always one open guy and you have to remenber that. Find that guy, relax and put the puck in the net."
Said Ott: "Quality shots come from hard work. It's eliminating the good forechecker and creating plays off that. Those scrambly plays around the net, we need more compete down low. ... Those 50-50 battles need to be won. You start winning more of those and that's where your shot totals miraculously start coming up in a hurry."
The other two lines remain intact, with Zemgus Girgenson-Mikhail Grigorenko-Brian Flynn as the third unit and John Scott-Kevin Porter-Patrick Kaleta the fourth line. Cody McCormick and Johan Larsson will be the scratches.
In addition to the changes on offense, Rolston has flipped some pairings on defense and notably paired Mike Weber with Tyler Myers while moving Jamie McBain to play with Rasmus Ristolainen. Christian Ehrhoff and Mark Pysyk stay together. Alexander Sulzer is a scratch.
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