By Mike Harrington
CALGARY, Alberta -- When training camp started in September, you could make the case that Nathan Lieuwen was fifth on the Sabres' depth chart in goal. For tonight at least, he's No. 1. Lieuwen is starting for the Sabres against the Calgary Flames.
"I just talked to him about how the progression beings and how it ends," said coach Ted Nolan, who had Lieuwen laughing during an on-ice chat during the pregame skate in the Saddledome. "You come from a real good junior background as a 17-year-old and all of sudden you're leadvng them as 19-year-old. Same thing at this level. You go down to the American League and come to this level. It's all part of progression."
Lieuwen did not speak to the media today as per team policy regarding goaltenders on game day.
"His work ethic is incredible," said defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, who played in Rochester with Lieuwen. "He stays after to take extra shots, usually doesn't matter if he's starting or not. He's a really positive kid, to himself especially. Doesn't point the finger at everybody. He's got raw skill but his work ethic got him where he is now."
Lieuwen played here in junior with Kootenay of the Western League against the Calgary Hitmen, so he's not dealing with a foreign rink for his first start.
"There's a lot to like about him. He's big and athletic," said Tyler Ennis. "We haven't seen much of him but what we've seen has been impressive. He's probably comfortable in this building, playing a few games against the Hitmen but it's a little different against the Flames. I'm sure that will be fun for him."
Matt Hackett will back up Lieuwen. Michal Neuvirth took the ice near the end of prctice and Nolan said he's doing better. He will be re-evaluated to see if he will play Thursday in Edmonton.
Torrey Mitchell returns to the lineup after taking a shot to the foot two weeks ago in Tampa. He'll be on a line with Matt D'Agostini nd Ville Leino. Zenon Konopka will be a scratch.
Click below to hear Nolan on Lieuwen, the lines and last June's Alberta flood that devastated the city and rink. Read more in Wednesday's paper..
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