By Mike Harrington
SHERWOOD PARK, Alberta -- The Sabres worked out for an hour today in the suburban practice facility that doubles as the Edmonton Oilers' part-time home and there were two main areas of news that come out of it:
Goaltending: Matt Hackett will make his Buffalo debut as the starter Thursday night in Rexall Place after Nathan Lieuwen played well in Calgary. Michal Neuvirth practiced fully and is on track to return Sunday in Vancouver. Hackett has 13 games of NHL experience with Minnesota.
Forward lines: Coach Ted Nolan juggled them and Marcus Foligno will replace Cory Conacher on the wing with red-hot Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis. That trio hopes to reprise their scoring surge that was the talk of the NHL during Buffalo's 2012 playoff push that fell short.
The playoffs are a pipe dream for this edition of the Sabres, who have lost seven straight and have just six goals in those games.
"Hopefully we have luck like that again and put up some points here," Foligno said.
"They've both got their game going," Nolan said of Stafford and Ennis. "You can't ask for much more from those two so it would be unfair for us to break them up. With Conacher, he had a couple empty-net tap in goals and he missed them. Maybe it will be good for Marcus to get in that position where his confidence could rise a little bit."
The other key move up front is returning Cody Hodgson to center from the wing. He was between Conacher and Torey Mitchell. Brian Flynn was centering Matt D'Agostini and Nicolas Deslauriers while Ville Leino was dropped to the fourth line with Matt Ellis. John Scott and Zenon Konopka were splitting the time on the other wing.
As for the goaltending, Nolan said the Sabres simply want a look at Hackett. When Neuvirth returns one of the newcomers in net will return to Rochester so this could be a quick look for Hackett.
Hackett is just 13-17-2 for the Amerks with a 3.07 GAA and .898 save percentage. Not what you'd expect from a guy with the big prospect label acquired from Minnesota in the Jason Pominville trade. Hackett was refreshingly frank about his season today.
"I don't think I was working hard enough at the start of the year," said Hackett, who credited Amerks goalie coach and former Canisius netminder Bob Janosz for staying with him. "My work ethic had to improve and get better. As a goalie you're alwys battling with your partner. It's a healthy competition. I'm just trying to get my game back and work hard."
Click below to hear the complete conversations with the media from Nolan and Hackett.
taggedMatt Hackett | Rochester Amerks | Ted Nolan