BUFFALO – Moving Jason Pominville off the Sabres’ top line wasn’t related to the veteran winger’s performance, coach Phil Housley said.
“He was playing terrific,” Housley said prior to Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes inside KeyBank Center. “We’re trying to spark some other lines and find some balance.”
Housley shifted Pominville to right wing beside center Johan Larsson and Seth Griffith or Matt Moulson last Saturday. Sam Reinhart, meanwhile, moved from his third-line center role to Pominville’s place with center Jack Eichel and Evander Kane.
For more than a month, Pominville, Eichel and Kane formed one of the NHL’s best trios. Pominville, 34, got off to a roaring start, scoring two goals opening night and compiling six goals and 12 points in the first 12 games.
But in three outings with Larsson on the third line entering Saturday, Pominville had zero points. His ice time has dipped about five minutes a night. In Friday’s 3-1 loss in Detroit, Pominville skated a season-low 11 minutes, 12 seconds.
On Saturday, Housley promoted Pominville to the second line with center Ryan O’Reilly and Benoit Pouliot. Kyle Okposo replaced Pominville beside Larsson.
Was leaving the top line tough for Pominville?
“Tough, a little bit, but, I mean, it’s part of the game, it’s a long season,” Pominville said. “Minutes will probably go up again at some point and then they’ll go back down. Lines will change again and it’s always been that way, it’ll never change.”
Getting moved down the lineup won’t change Pominville’s attitude.
“They can put me in any situation and I’ll go out there and try to work and battle do what I can do to help the team in any situation,” he said. “So I’m fine with playing wherever with whoever. I’ll bring the same thing I always do.”
Pominville became accustomed to switching lines last year in Minnesota, coach Bruce Boudreau’s first with the Wild. Pominville averaged only 14 minutes, 14 seconds of ice time a game, his lowest total since his rookie season.
“As you get older, I feel like you’re maybe capable of maybe fitting in and finding a way to help linemates that play different styles,” Pominville said. “That’s an area that I think I can fit in in any situation.”
Still, Pominville tries to showcase the same style wherever he’s playing.
“I try not to change my game, but I try to read off what they do maybe a little bit better than when I was younger,” he said.
Housley said defenseman Zach Bogosian (lower body) and center Jacob Josefson (lower body) are skating but still week-to-week. Bogosian hasn’t played this season.
“They’ve made really good strides in that area,” Housley said. “We’re just being cautious.”
Meanwhile, forwards Alexander Nylander (lower body) and Evan Rodrigues (hand) made their season debuts Friday in the Rochester Americans’ 4-2 home win against the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Nylander was OK after enduring a big hit from former Sabres forward Dan Catenacci late in the contest.
Housley wants Rodrigues, who might’ve made the Sabres out of training camp, to receive more game action.
The Sabres had two healthy scratches, Moulson and defenseman Casey Nelson.