Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Tonight will mark forward Sam Reinhart's eighth game with Buffalo and at the end of his next game played, the Sabres will need to decide whether or not they wish to keep him with the club for a 10th, thus "burning" a year on his entry-level contract.
Reinhart hasn't really done enough to this point to warrant keeping him on the Sabres as the team looks destined to struggle for the rest of the season. The team is at 2-7-0 on the year thus far and have scored a league-worst 1.11 goals per game. Were he pitching in more offensively, perhaps things would be different but Reinhart it took him seven games to register his first NHL point, a secondary assist in San Jose' on Saturday.
Tonight Reinhart will be between Nic Deslauriers and Cody McCormick on the fourth line again. Deslauriers scored a goal on a feed from McCormick after Reinhart worked the puck to him and the rookie feels as if they may have some chemistry. “I’ve felt with Deslauries and McCormick we’ve had some success and it was nice we finally buried one." he said, and for the kid a weight was lifted “Yes I think so, it’s always a relief, it’s a little later than I would’ve wanted, we had some success and it was just a matter of time.”
It's a tough situation when deciding Reinhart's fate. There's been marked game-to-game improvement even while playing only 10+ minutes per game and the kid has a definite feel for the game. But, he's still a kid and the decision that needs to be made is whether he's better off playing over 20 minutes a game in junior or 10 minutes a game with the Sabres.
We'll know the answer on Saturday before the team gets ready to face the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Goalie Michal Neuvirth gets the start in net tonight over Jhonas Enroth. Neuvirth is coming off a strong performance at San Jose' where he gave up only one goal on 30 shots and was named the game's first star. On the season he's 1-2 with a 3.02 gaa with a .916 save percentage.
Coming out of the gate this season, Enroth was the #1 goalie. He had a strong training camp and preseason while Neuvirth struggled. Enroth has played pretty well, all things considered, but has been uneven through his first six games. He's played three good games balanced by three not so good ones and is 1-5 with a 3.13 gaa and a .914 sv. percentage.
Head coach Ted Nolan was asked if the tide has turned while sending his #1 goalie to the bench in favor of his backup and he dismissed the notion that there was a #1/backup to begin with. “I said he won the right to start the season,” Nolan said. “There’s a difference between starting goaltenders and starting the season."
Enroth has played well but will always need to overcome his size. At 5'10" and 166 lbs., there's a lot of open net that he needs to cover. And he usually does a good job of it whether through positioning or sheer determination. Neuvirth stands 6'1" and weighs in at a pretty stout 209 lbs. and is positionally strong. Plus, GM Tim Murray, who likes bigger goalies, is the one who traded for him.
Nolan dismisses any early goalie "controversy" and refuses to say who he has more faith in at this point, “It’s not that we’ve given up on Jhonas," he said, "it’s just that the hot goaltender right now you got to go with."
Sometimes it sucks when you're at the so called "Center of the Hockey Universe."
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a bit of trouble right now and their coach, Randy Carlyle, is said to be on the hot seat.
He and his coaching staff are not seeing a complete effort from their team often enough as evidenced in their 3-4-1 record. A supposed playoff team this season, the Leafs are off to a poor start and it's gotten so bad that country singer Anne Murray has even chimed in. "I wish the Leafs were better." she tweeted.
Scathing criticism indeed.
From Murray to Leafs fans throwing their sweaters on the ice in protest, a 1-4 home record just isn't getting it done and their lackluster effort has the blame being placed directly on the shoulders of Carlyle.
Typically, as we've seen in Buffalo with Lindy Ruff, the coach is responsible for motivating his players and when they fail to "compete" he's said to have lost them. TSN's Darren Dreger was on TSN radio and thanks to tweets by Hope_Smoke printed by the National Post, Dreger's "coach in trouble" jargon was laid out in a series of prescient clichés:
--"you can't get rid of all your players so it's easier to get rid of your coach."
--"Traditionally mangers are loath to fire their coach & they'll look to make a trade to jolt the team before making that move
--"It's still very early & they still believe in Carlyle. They know they can't survive many games like Saturday before doing something."
Looks like Carlyle has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.
Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges will be making his first regular season appearance in Toronto since he famously (or infamously, in Toronto) shunned the "Center of the Hockey Universe" for the "lowly" city of Buffalo, NY.
Does he think he'll get booed tonight at the Air Canada Center?
"Yup," he said.
Sabres fans are certainly glad that his hatred for the Leafs and that his honesty in saying that he just couldn't give the team his all, made him a Buffalo Sabre.
“Josh’s impact has been exactly what we expected,” Nolan said. “He certainly adds a competitive element to us. You hear him in practice yelling all the time, you hear him during games, and he doesn’t like to lose. Sooner or later, that attitude rubs off on everyone else. He’s been great for us.”
Gorges proudly wears the "A" on his sweater and has been a positive influence on the team even while the Sabres have been off to a pretty rough start. “I knew coming in that I’d be counted on to be a leader, especially with the young defensemen, and (to) be a role model. That’s been what I thought it would be, and now it’s just a matter of that I take care of my job on the ice as well. I can’t just focus on trying to teach. I have a job to do as well.”
There would be no better dagger in the heart of rival Leafs fans then for Gorges and the "lowly" Sabres to climb up Mount Maple Leaf and come back triumphant.
A few notes for tonight's contest.
The home team has won each of the last seven meetings between the teams.
The Sabres are 5-2-3 in their last 10 games vs. the Maple Leafs; 1-7-2 on the road.
This will be the 194th meeting between the two clubs. The Sabres have a 106-62-25 record.
And, for Buffalo Bills fans, the NFL trade deadline has come and gone with the team not making a trade.
The New England Patriots bolstered their linebacker-corps by sending a fifth and a sixth rounder to Tampa Bay for veteran Jonathan Casillas.