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Setting The Roster
October 2, 2010 - Matt Spielman
With the regular season set to begin in less than a week, its' time for the Buffalo Sabres to finalize their roster for the 2010-11 campaign. I've watched two of the preseason games and read about the rest and it looks like Drew Stafford has a new outlook on his career, which is not surprising considering he is playing for a new contract this year. The new defensive additions look to be fitting in nicely and the top-12 forwards look to be set.
Let's get the gorilla in the room out of the way early. While Zach Kassian was impressive with his size and strength on the puck, I didn't see him making the roster -- a foot injury in Philadelphia made that certain. Lindy Ruff had been playing him on relatively obscure lines that didn't really encourage his scoring ability. Without the option to send Kassian to Portland, the tough winger is heading back to juniors. While he played well, he was nowhere near as impressive as Tyler Myers was during his early season tryout last year. Luke Adam may have actually turned more heads than Kassian near the end of camp, but I don't see him making the squad either.
Up front it looks like Ruff will go with the old reliable line of Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Stafford, which has proved very fruitful at times in the past, but all three have also shown stretches of enigmatic play, which forces Ruff to shuffle the lines.
The second line will probably feature Tim Connolly at center with Jason Pominville on the right wing and Tyler Ennis on the left side. All three have playmaking ability while Connolly and Pominville possess rocket shots. Ennis plays a lot bigger than he actually is down low and while this line may lack grit and size, it should make up for it in offensive ability. Pominville has been one of the most consistent players in the league throughout his career and when Connolly is on his game, he makes everybody around him better.
The third line should be a formidable defensive line to check the opponent's top line. Newcomer Rob Niedermayer will play center with Jochen Hecht on the left wing and Mike Grier on the right side. It would surprise me if this line totaled anything more than 20 goals for the entire season, but it should neutralize the top scorers in the Northeast Division and allow the Sabres' skilled players to shine offensively.
I believe Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta will be fixtures on the fourth line with the left side switching between Cody McCormick and Nathan Gerbe. While Gerbe is small in stature he should fit in nicely with his aggressive play across the ice from Kaleta.
On the back end Tyler Myers and Shaone Morrisonn will make a nice top defensive pair. Myers likes to jump up in the play on occasion while Morrisonn seems to be very comfortable staying back on the blue line.
Ruff seems intent on keeping captain Craig Rivet next to one of Buffalo's young defensemen so look for him to start next to Andrej Sekera, who has played very well in the preseason and is looking to build on him impressive performance at the Olympics for Slovakia. Chris Butler and Mike Weber will probably make the team, but only as the seventh and eighth defensemen.
Steve Montador and Jordan Leopold will make up the third pairing and both have shown flashes of offense at times in their careers. Leopold will probably play the point on one of the power-play groups with Myers taking care of the other group.
Ryan Miller will leave no doubt in net as he will likely start upward of 70 games again this year. Every preseason the coaching staff and management talks about giving Miller more rest and playing Patrick Lalime more, but once Ruff gets into the flow of the season, he seems to find it more difficult to find those spots to rest Miller.
While not much has changed from last season, that may not be a bad thing because the Sabres were a 100-point team who won their division. While they did fail in the playoffs, it seems that may be where the additions help the most. Adding a little bit of young blood in Gerbe and Ennis to the lineup while also bringing in a former Stanley Cup winner in Niedermayer, the core may get the idea that April and May is no time to mess around.
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