BUFFALO – Tonight in Philadelphia, Jhonas Enroth will take a backseat to goalie Ryan Miller again, a place the backup is well accustomed to.
With Miller entrenched as the franchise netminder and Enroth struggling, the 24-year-old has only played sporadically this lockout-shortened season.
The original plan called for Enroth to spell Miller regularly, start about 10 or 12 of the 48 games. So far, 25 tilts into the season, the Swede has only earned three nods.
But fresh off a strong 27-save performance in Thursday’s 3-2 shootout loss in New Jersey, Enroth could start receiving a little more action.
In his first start since Feb. 5, Enroth made several huge stops, dazzling before cramps forced him out after the tying goal with 1:06 left in regulation.
Enroth said Saturday he was joking following the game when he said coffee possibly caused the cramps.
Thursday might’ve been the biggest night of Enroth’s career. He acknowledged his effort generated some much-needed confidence. It also convinced the Sabres they can turn to him again.
“It’s both confidence that he builds and we build as a staff,” interim Sabres coach Ron Rolston said Friday. “This is a game of results at the end of the day – for goalies, for coaches, for players, for teams. It’s about results. I think what happened (Thursday) was a case of he was really able to put some confidence in the bank for the next time.”
Another bad game – Enroth was sporting a ghastly 4.73 goals-against average and an .847 save percentage– and the Sabres might’ve started looking for a veteran backup.
Incredibly, Enroth hasn’t won since Nov. 26, 2011, a 16-game stretch.
When will Enroth, who tries to treat each practice like a game, play again? Every point is precious for the 14th-place Sabres.
“We’ll look at our schedule, obviously, but also look at how we’re playing,” Rolston said. “We’re in a situation (where) it’s results-driven now. (We need to) get Millsie back in again and see if we can go on a run here, and we’ll go from there. So you still have to make those decisions on how you’re team’s going, too.
“But we’d like to … give him a start sooner than his last two starts. I think that’ll help him carry over from that last game.”
Part of Enroth’s success can be traced to the team’s improved defense. Under Rolston, the Sabres have been running around their own zone much less.
“Our team continues to get better in front of our goalies, which has helped them more, I think,” Rolston said. “That’s our game plan. We want to make their game easy, easier than it’s probably been. I think we’re getting better at that.”
Still, Rolston called it “a work in progress.”
“Especially getting out of our zone,” he said Saturday after the Sabres practiced inside Riverside Ice Rink. “That’s a key component with spending time in your zone. We got to be able to make those first passes.”
The Sabres could change their blue line up against the Flyers.
Adam Pardy, a healthy scratch the past two contests, practiced on a regular pairing Saturday. So did Andrej Sekera, at least briefly.
Sekera, who left Thursday’s game late and didn’t practice Friday, skated beside Robyn Regehr, his regular partner, until the Sabres began battle drills.
The Slovak will make the trip to Philadelphia, although a return Tuesday at home against the New York Rangers appears more likely.
“He actually went pretty well today,” Rolston said. “But we took him out about halfway through because we were getting into more battle situations. So we wanted to kind of take it slow today.”
Rolston said Sekera could potentially play tonight if he feels better.
If Pardy returns, rookie T.J. Brennan would likely sit.
Meanwhile, Rolston has noticed some improvement in Tyler Myers’ game recently.
These days, Myers’ progress is measured differently. Instead of comparing the 23-year-old to the NHL’s best defensemen, many simply wonder if he’s among the Sabres’ top six.
Myers has struggled much of this season, committing gaffes while generating little offense. He even sat twice as a healthy scratch.
However, Myers seems to have settled down a bit in the past week or so. He skated a season-high 23:40 on Thursday.
“I’ve seen some improvements, for sure,” Rolston said. “I think his game’s getting better, more consistent. There’s still a couple times in a game we got to clean up some situations. For the most part, he’s getting more efficient with his game.
“When he’s struggling, you see him forcing everything. I think that’s really been minimized. You’ll see it a couple times a game now, but we’re in a situation where we like where he’s going.”
Rolston on the Chicago Blackhawks’ NHL-record, season-opening 24-game point streak, which ended with a 6-2 loss Friday in Colorado: “It’s an incredible streak, incredible streak. But sooner or later it was going to happen. So they’ll be back on another one.”