By Mike Harrington
Ted Nolan has seen the same thing all of you have -- and a little bit more. So the masses are probably happy with the news that goal-less Ville Leino is a healthy scratch tonight against the Ottawa Senators, a first for Leino since Nolan has taken over.
Leino has five assists and a minus-6 rating in 18 games this season. He has four of his assists since Nolan took over but still can't crack the net. Worse yet, he's minus-3 in the last two games and the coach has seen enough. Leino will join Mike Weber in the First Niagara Center press box tonight, with John Scott and Brayden McNabb moving back into the lineup.
"Certain players with a certain skill set, they have to bring it," Nolan said. "And if you're not going to play as well as you can, sometimes it's better off to sit and observe for a while. And hopefully when he gets back in here, he plays the way he's capable of playing."
Leino's ice time increased slightly when Nolan took over from Ron Rolston, who made Leino a healthy scratch Nov. 8 in Anaheim. In the five games prior to Saturday's 3-2 loss in Montreal, Leino played at least 18 minutes in all of them and had some great stints of puck possession. But he played just 13:18 Saturday and was dropped to the fourth line in practice Monday as part of Nolan's shuffing.
"I don't know what to tell you," Leino said. "Just like you said, Back and forth. I'm not exactly sure what he wants out of me."
Asked if Nolan finally told him score-or-sit, Leino responded, "He didn't exactly say that but I guess everybody knows that has to happen. Saying that, not a lot of other guys have scored either."
Nolan, however, gave more insight into the decision -- and it wasn't just Leino's minus-2 against the Habs.
"Not only that game but the way we practiced yesterday," the coach said. "He didn't practice all that well. We're a product of the environment. If you don't practice hard, how are you going to play hard? We have to set a certain standard here that you have to be accountable for. Not just Ville. Everybody."
Ryan Miller is expected in goal tonight for Buffalo against Robin Lehner. Craig Anderson got the win for Ottawa in last night's 5-4 shootout triumph over Philadelphia. The Senators won their only previous meeting with Buffalo, 1-0, in the Oct. 4 home opener that saw Miller and Anderson combine for 80 saves.
Click below to hear Nolan's detailed session with reporters about Leino, the Sabres' talent level in general, their defensive improvement and Miller. My chat with Leino is also clickable below.
taggedTed Nolan | Ville Leino