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Back To What Worked
March 3, 2009 - Matt Spielman
The Sabres offense is struggling. A shutout at the hands of the lowly Islanders proved that.
Lindy Ruff put the team through a daylong educational experience Monday, watching film and practicing on the ice for six hours at HSBC Arena.
Word is the coach is looking to reunite a few players for Wednesday's home game against the Canadiens, assuming the players are still on the roster at that time.
What WGR 550 dubbed the "Bait Line" this morning will reunite center Tim Connolly with wingers Maxim Afinogenov and Ales Kotalik. All three could be moved before the game with the trade deadline at 3 p.m. and all three entering unrestricted free agency this offseason.
With Thomas Vanek returning, I would expect to see him centered by Derek Roy with Drew Stafford on the opposite wing. This line was very productive in the past and with nothing else working right now, why not go back to it?
I would like to see Jason Pominville and Daniel Paille on the wings of Paul Gaustad giving Pominville a little size to do his dirty work and hopefully pull him out of a funk in which he's scored 1 goal in 29 games.
That would leave Jochen Hecht to center a group of Patrick Kaleta, Andrew Peters, Matt Ellis and Clarke MacArthur. I wouldn't mind giving Hecht a seat in the press box for a game or two, but it seems that he is a Ruff favorite because of his defensive ability.
When this team was rolling in the past couple of years, Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder were a good defensive pair and it doesn't look to me like Tallinder has done anything to play himself out of the lineup since returning from his latest injury. I would also keep Chris Butler with Craig Rivet so the captain can steady and lead the youngster. That leaves Jaroslav Spacek with Andrej Sekera for the other defensive pairing. Teppo Numminen and Nathan Paetsch can watch from upstairs.
Many of these groupings have experienced success in the past and with the team in the midst of a 3-game losing streak, now's the time to put them in familiar successful positions. Hopefully Darcy Regier can bring in some reinforcements before 3 p.m., or if he can't, he can move out most if not all of the unrestricted free agents, raise the white flag on this season and get ready to make an impact in free agency this offseason.
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Buffalo Sabres' Thomas Vanek wears a mask to protect his broken jaw as he looks to deflect a puck in front of Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth during hockey practice at HSBC Arena in Buffalo on Tuesday. AP photo