Jhonas Enroth stops Carolina’s Greg Nemisz on Tuesday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Jhonas Enroth, top line shine in Sabres’ preseason win against Hurricanes

BUFFALO – At one end, Jhonas Enroth thwarted the Carolina Hurricanes, stopping all 35 shots he faced. The diminutive Swede performed like a No. 1 goalie in the Sabres’ 2-0 exhibition win inside the First Niagara Center.

At the other end Tuesday, Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford dominated for spells, creating both Sabres goals. The trio performed like a No. 1 line.

Plenty of jobs and roles are up for grabs this preseason. The Sabres are searching for a starting goalie and a top line.

Maybe, just two games into the exhibition slate, they’ve found both.

“I think it’s a preview of things to come for (Enroth),” Stafford said. “He’s been itching to get that starting job.”

Enroth dazzled during the second period. At one point, Carolina had a 13-2 shot advantage. He stopped 17 more shots in the third period.

The 26-year-old looked in control throughout, challenging shooters and smothering pucks. Sabres coach Ted Nolan said whatever hit Enroth “seemed to suck right into his body.”

“There was no rebounds,” he said. “He had full control. He was in control from start to finish in this game. For our team to have some success this year, that’s the type of goaltending we’re going to need on a regular basis.”

Enroth, who’s beginning a battle with Michal Neuvirth, said he focused on trying to develop good habits Tuesday.

“Tonight it paid off,” said Enroth, who sprained his MCL late last season.

Second-period goals from Stafford and Ennis cemented the win. The linemates all had two points. Moulson sent Stafford on a breakaway at 11:52. Carolina’s Jordan Staal knocked in Ennis’ shot at 18:08 following a slick move in front.

They set the tone early, winning battles and holding the puck in the Carolina zone during their first shift. The three showcased some of the chemistry they had last season.

“We can’t wait to get started,” Ennis said. “We were confident coming into camp. We were confident coming into this game tonight, and I think we played well. We’re really excited as a trio to get going. We did well together last year.”

Stafford added: “I think we can be an extremely effective line.”

The Sabres couldn’t escape the game unscathed. Defenseman Mark Pysyk suffered an upper-body injury during his first shift and left the game.

“It looks like he’ll be out for a little while,” Nolan said. “Not a long, long time.”

With only five defenseman, newcomer Andrej Meszaros played a whopping 29 minutes, 39 seconds. The other four defenders played more than 20 minutes.

“I was very happy with the way the five defenseman played,” Nolan said.

The Sabres’ old regime rarely played junior players during the preseason. Three – No. 2 pick Sam Reinhart and wingers Vaclav Karabacek and Brendan Lemieux, two 2014 second-round picks – have appeared this year.

Lemieux, the 31st selection, debuted Tuesday, skating 11 minutes, 32 seconds on the left wing beside Mikhail Grigorenko and Patrick Kaleta.

Nolan believes Lemieux possesses the qualities of his father, Claude Lemieux, one of the NHL’s all-time great pests.

“I was really impressed with him,” Nolan said. “He’s a chip off the old block. He’s loud on the bench. He’s talkative. He’s alert. He talks to his linemates. He’s very, very attentive to the game. He’s going to be a real good one.”

Reinhart skated 15 minutes, eight seconds, mostly between Nick Deslauriers and Chris Stewart. Nolan put him between Zac Dalpe and Brian Gionta late.

“As the game went, he got better and better,” Nolan said.

Kaleta, the Sabres’ chief agitator for years, played his first game since tearing his ACL on Nov. 29 in Rochester.

The team’s old regime banished Kaleta early last season following his 10-game suspension for hitting Columbus’ Jack Johnson in the head.

Nolan wants Kaleta to keep playing his ferocious style, though.

“We want Kaleta to be Kaleta,” he said prior to the game. “We want to make sure he brings that same fire and spark that he’s always played with. Sometimes (there’s) that line you might cross, and he crossed it a few times. We don’t want him to cross that line.

“We want him to play effective. We want him to play gritty. We want him to play like the pain in the butt that he could be.”

Nolan said Kaleta showcased more aggressiveness as the game went on.

Notes: Nolan said the Sabres will name a new captain when camp breaks. Gionta, Moulson and Josh Gorges served as alternates Tuesday. … The Sabres assigned nine players to their junior clubs Tuesday, including Karabacek and Eric Cornel, another 2014 second-round pick. … Cody Hodgson hasn’t played yet this preseason. Nolan said the winger’s healthy. He said Stafford asked him to play. … Staal broke a bone in his right leg after getting tangled with Gorges late.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *