BUFFALO – Less than two weeks ago, Chris Stewart appeared to turn a corner. The 6-foot-2, 231-pound Sabres winger scored two nifty breakaway goals during a three-game stretch, just his second and third goals this season.
But Stewart has done little since then, so Sabres coach Ted Nolan will make the 27-year-old a healthy scratch for tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Kings inside the First Niagara Center.
“All players have to play to the best of their ability,” Nolan said this morning. “If not, there’s somebody else that will take their place.”
Patrick Kaleta, a scratch last game, will replace Stewart.
What has happened to Stewart? The former first-rounder has two 28-goal seasons on his resume. He has three goals in his last 47 games, however.
“He needs to play the way he can,” Nolan said. “He’s a big, powerful forward. Powerful forwards can’t be playing a soft game. You play a soft game, it doesn’t fit into their makeup. So we need him playing the way he can, similar to Marcus Foligno. We sat him earlier this year. So hopefully it’ll be a good message to him to sit back and watch and see what he’s missing.”
Stewart, a key piece in the Ryan Miller trade with St. Louis, has four points and a minus-11 rating in 27 games this season. Rumors are swirling the Sabres will trade Stewart, an unrestricted free agent following the season. Nolan benched him in Thursday’s 5-0 loss in Tampa Bay.
Nolan said he hasn’t spoken to Stewart about the benching. Stewart is apparently irked. When he left the ice this morning, he took a turn and never entered the dressing room. A few minutes later, a staff member wheeled his equipment to his locker on a cart.
Goalie Jhonas Enroth will start tonight. Defensemen Tyson Strachan will miss a second straight game with an undisclosed injury.
The Sabres are 9-1 in their last 10 home games against the Kings, the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Update: Three weeks in, Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons remains the leading vote-getter for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game, the league announced this afternoon. But get this: Girgensons added more than 400,000 votes in the last week. The 20-year-old has a whopping 803,805 votes!
According to the NHL, nearly 82 percent of the votes have come from Girgensons’ native Latvia. Chicago star Patrick Kane is second in voting with a distant 375,758 votes.