By Mike Harrington
There's the old story in baseball, famously done by Billy Martin when he was a manager in Detroit and again in New York, about throwing all the names in a cap and picking them out to make a lineup card. Hockey coaches aren't that goofy when shuffling their forward lines, even though it might seem that way at times.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston made some moves during practice today in First Niagara Center, as I documented during my earlier post. After benching the trio of Tyler Ennis-Cody Hodgson-Matt Moulson for the final 26+ minutes Friday in Anaheim, the work began anew today with Steve Ott on the top line and Ennis moved down to line two.
Moulson also said today he visited Rolston in a sort of clear-the-air session with his new coach. Moulson, remember, told John Vogl after the ugly 6-2 loss it's "the most embarrassed" he's been in his NHL career.
"He wants to make sure we're working," Moulson said. "When you're relied upon to produce in this league on a top line of any team, obviously you have to be the best line out there each game. Obviously, the staff didn't feel we were the last game. I didn't think we were and we'll move on from there."
"You want to play and you want to help the team and contribute but that stuff is up to the coach," Hodgson said. "I did my best to encourage other guys."
Rolston, as usual, was pretty tight-lipped about the decision to keep the trio bolted to the bench.
"I'm not going to discuss that," he said. "We'll talk about it within the confines of the team."
Fair enough. Rolston did, however, give some insight later on. He said he wanted more "heaviness" on the top line and Ott can fulfill that role. He said he was fully confident Moulson would respond well and pointed out what's clear to everyone: Hodgson isn't near the No. 1 centers in the NHL like Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf, who burned the Sabres with a first-period hat trick.
"He's a top-line player for us and you can see what other top lines have done when they've come to this building or on the road,' Rolston said. "Your best players have to be your best players. How was Getzlaf on the road? Those guys make plays and they make a difference."
In other news, Rolston said defenseman Christian Ehrhoff will return when the Los Angeles Kings play here tomorrow after missing the Anaheim game and fellow blueliner Mike Weber (hand) could be ready to come off injured reserve this weekend against Toronto. Click below to hear the audio of Rolston's session with reporters today, which also discusses the pretty good first two games of the trip and the Sabres' need to find a way to get their first win at home.