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Paring The Roster

September 23, 2009 - Matt Spielman

So the blog title will be "From Butler To Weber" for now, but I fully expect that to change Weber to Vanek in due time.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's take a lot at what remains for the Sabres to decide before the season opener next Saturday against Montreal at HSBC Arena.

Based on contracts, experience and probably overall talent at this point, Jhonas Enroth is clearly third on the goaltending depth chart heading into this season and he will be hopping a flight out of town to man the Portland Pirates' net soon enough. Ryan Miller and Patty Lalime are the obvious goaltenders.

Up front, expect Derek Roy to center Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford on the top scoring line. They have had success in the past and as with many aspects of this organization, management will be expecting big things out of this nucleus of players.

Tim Connolly will center the second line with Jason Pominville on one wing. The other wing will give the Sabres their first choice in the lineup. I would like to see Daniel Paille or Clarke Macarthur to fill in that spot. Both have showed glimpses of scoring ability but have also underperformed in the past.

With offseason signings and the direction the league is taking lately, I expect Buffalo to suit up a conventional fourth checking line consisting of three players from the group of Paille/Macarthur, Cody McCormick, Patrick Kaleta, Matt Ellis and Adam Mair. Past playing time and contracts would put Paille, Kaleta and Mair in the lineup with McCormick and Ellis being the odd men out, but none of those looks like a true center for the line.

That leaves Paul Gaustad to center Jochen Hecht and Mike Grier on a third line that may be able to shut down the opposition's top lines.

A lineup looking like this would again send Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy back to Portland, which I am not a big fan of. I would rather see Hecht and Macarthur gone via any sort of transaction it takes, but management and the coaching staff seem married to the idea of Hecht being in the lineup every night.

Sabres management also has questions on the blue line to answer and as I see it there are nine skaters playing for six starting spots and a reserve position.

Captain Craig Rivet is here as are Toni Lydman, Andrej Sekera, Chris Butler and Steve Montador. The remaining four defensmen as I see them are Nathan Paetsch, Henrik Tallinder, Tyler Myers and Mike Weber. The only way Myers stays in town is if he is a top-6 blue liner because he will play every day at a lower level. If the Sabres keep him, I see Weber going back to Portland, Tallinder being the seventh man and Paetsch being the odd man out of this group.

Two games remain for the coaching staff and Darcy Regier to evaluate. A short preseason schedule is rushing the decisions, but this staff has seen enough of many of these players over the years to make their decisions.

October 3 can't come soon enough.


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