By John Vogl
MONTREAL -- Ville Leino will get another chance to score his first goal. The offensively challenged winger, who was scratched for the previous two games, will play against Montreal tonight with center Zenon Konopka out with a back injury.
"I’ll just try to make plays, work hard and try to create some offense, create some chances," Leino said in Bell Centre. "That’s my game. I can’t be anyone else."
He certainly hasn't been what Buffalo expected when it signed him to a six-year, $27 million contract in 2011. Leino has no goals and only 34 shots in 50 games this season. He has 12 assists and hasn't reached the score sheet in 10 games.
"I’m sure it weighs on me, too, but obviously there’s a lot of other guys on the team, too, that hasn’t been able to really help that much either," said Leino, who has tried to avoid thoughts of his benching. "There’s so much going on in here in the organization with how this team’s been lately. I’m just trying to stay focused and not think about it too much. When you go in, do your best."
Coach Ted Nolan benched Leino primarily because of a giveaway last Tuesday in Calgary.
"It’s not a good play," Leino said. "You don’t want to do that play, but saying that we’re not able to bail ourselves out of those situations. Nobody’s bailing you out. It’s three-on-three. It turns the other way, then we lose guys and lose battles and don’t box out. It always happens when you try to do that. When you’re not playing good, those things end up going in.
"I’ll try to stay away from that. Saying that, I’ve still got to try to make plays when there’s an opportunity. Sometimes, it involves a little bit of a risk and taking a chance. I’ll try to stay out of it because that will bite me apparently."
Because of his struggles, Leino is a candidate to be a compliance buyout this summer as the Sabres seek to get out of the final three seasons of his contract.
"I can’t really do anything about it, so I’ll accept whatever it is," Leino said. "When the season’s over, that’s time to think about that."
Leino will play alongside center Matt Ellis and left wing John Scott on the Sabres' fourth line. The other lines will be Tyler Ennis in the middle of Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford, Cody Hodgson centering for Cory Conacher and Torrey Mitchell, and Brian Flynn flanked by Nicolas Deslauriers and Matt D'Agostini.