BUFFALO – Before Tyler Ennis can return from a groin injury that has sidelined him 27 games, the Sabres must put the shifty winger through difficult practices featuring rough battle drills and bumping from heavy bodies.
Ennis, who underwent surgery Nov. 10, responded well to the arduous session today inside KeyBank Center. So, could the Sabres’ longest-tenured player be close to returning?
“We’re getting close, just need a few more sessions like that,” Ennis said.
Ennis, 27, wouldn’t rule out Tuesday’s home game against Philadelphia, although a return that soon seems unlikely. The Sabres begin a two-game road trip Thursday in Tampa Bay.
“He had some battle in which he needed to get tested in those areas – stress in his midsection, stress in his groins,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “Him saying it went good thinks he responded well to having that pressure.”
Meanwhile, Bylsma fresh off Saturday’s thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind win against Winnipeg, mixed up his lines today as follows from left to right:
– Marcus Foligno, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart
– Evander Kane, Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Gionta
– William Carrier, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo
– Nick Deslauriers, Derek Grant and Matt Moulson
The most notable move, of course, is moving Reinhart from center back beside Eichel. The two have spent much of the last year or so together. Reinhart, however, has been on a tear, compiling nine points in the last nine games. Much of that time was spent in the middle.
Bylsma cautioned today’s lines might not last. Still, he wants Eichel, O’Reilly and Reinhart to play on the top two lines.
“I like those three guys playing more, and sometimes it works better if they’re in the top six than versus the top nine,” he said. “I like Sam at center. He’s done a good job. He’s really showed some good things and some improvement in his game with his battle down low and his support, his ability to break out.”
In other news, Carrier practiced after missing two games with the flu. Carrier lost 13 pounds, Bylsma said.
Defenseman Josh Gorges (hip, day-to-day) and Dmitry Kulikov (back) also missed the session. Bylsma said Kulikov is more than day-to-day.