The Buffalo Sabres have been known as more of a defensive team with strong goaltending throughout the years, but they hope to bring more offense to the table this season.
Toward the end of last season, the Sabres enjoyed the emergence of Marcus Foligno, who played along side of Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford. Foligno averaged nearly a point per game and seemed to spark both Ennis and Stafford who struggled for most of the season. Lindy Ruff has already stated that the line will remain intact when the season begins Sunday.
NHL players with two-way contracts spent the lockout playing in the AHL while waiting for a new CBA, and it appears that the time was well spent for Cody Hodgson. Hodgson appears to be coming into his own as he is healthy and his work in the American league earned him a chance to center Buffalo's top line, which will also consist of Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.
The Sabres also hope that Ville Leino will be able to return to his old self. The man that nearly single-handedly took Buffalo out of the playoffs in 2010-2011 really struggled last season. Ruff hopes that moving Leino back to the wing will help him get back to the offensive player the Sabres thought they were getting when they signed him last offseason. While Leino knows he needs to improve his own game, he also sees an opportunity for the Sabres to get better offensively with Mikhail Grigorenko.
“He’s pretty calm with the puck, sees the ice well. A lot of young guys are a little nervous and they make fast decisions,” Leino told Sabres.com. “But he’s able to hang on the puck a little bit, make a good play and give time to the other players. He’s like a lot of good Russian players; they disguise passes really well. He definitely has that touch that a lot of Russian players have. He’s one of those kind of guys I enjoy playing with because he likes to make plays.”
Leino also says that Grigorenko could help him get out of his own slump, as his style matches some of Leino's former linemates.
“I always played with players like that in Detroit, and even in Philadelphia with guys like Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and sometimes (Claude) Giroux and (Mike) Richards,” Leino told Sabres.com. “That’s the kind of player I always wanted to play with; they’re fun to play with. Otter is, in a way, the same way because he makes a lot of plays. He’s in a bit of a different role, but it’s been fun to play with these guys.”
Offense was a bit of a problem for Buffalo last season. However, they hope that with the adjustments they made, and with the short season, they will be able to hit the ground running and put points on the scoreboard.
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