BUFFALO – These aren’t regular healthy scratches. Interim coach Ted Nolan, who’s been charged with evaluating and developing the Sabres’ young lineup, wants some of his prospects to sit occasionally.
So he scratched center Mikhail Grigorenko and defenseman Brayden McNabb for Friday’s 3-2 overtime win against Toronto Maple Leafs inside the First Niagara Center.
Both should return tonight in New Jersey against the Devils, however.
“I’m not unhappy,” Nolan said Friday morning about Grigorenko’s play. “It’s just when you develop a young guy like that, once in a while it’s better to sit back and see. He’s going to sit back and watch tonight. He’ll be back in the lineup. ”
What about McNabb?
“Same thing,” Nolan said. “Last time I thought maybe he jumped in a little too much, quicker than he should’ve. He’s a fine young prospect. He’s going to be fine. Both those guys will probably be back in.”
Meanwhile, defenseman Mike Weber returned from a two-game absence. Jamie McBain sat his third straight contest.
Carrying eight defenders can be “tough,” Nolan said.
“But we’re in a competitive sport, and the guys … they got to try to keep their positions,” he said. “They slip off a little bit, somebody’s right there to take your job. There’s nothing like a good old competition.”
With Grigorenko out after three straight appearances, Tyler Ennis shifted from wing back to center between Luke Adam and Zemgus Girgensons.
“He’s a gifted little guy that needs to have some room to skate with the puck and do some things with it,” Nolan said about Ennis. “We don’t need him battling along the boards.”
The numbers, of course, are still bad. Sabres center Ville Leino has zero goals, four assists and just 10 shots 15 games into his season.
But Leino, having played 20:19 and 19:23 in two games earlier this week, is beginning to earn Nolan’s trust.
Leino assisted on Matt Moulson’s power-play goal Friday, his third helper in the last five games.
In Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Montreal, Leino had Canadiens goalie Carey Price beaten, but the puck trickled through and hit the post. It would’ve been his first goal since March 30.
“It’s obviously frustrating when you’re not scoring,” Leino said Friday morning. “But I’m happy with getting chances. I’m happy with making plays. There’s a lot of good things. Results are important. Producing is important. But if you keep playing like that and getting chances like that, start circling posts, you’re going to get some goals at one point. Better soon than later.”
Nolan recently switched Leino from wing back to center, a position he played early in 2011-12.
“It’s been pretty good so far,” Leino said. “I’ve been getting a lot of pucks, making a lot of plays. I’m feeling pretty comfortable. Can’t complain. The only thing I can complain is not getting it in, but it’s my own fault.”
Leino pivoted newcomer Matt D’Agostini and captain Steve Ott on Friday.
Notes: Nolan said Cody McCormick (upper body, three games) could return Saturday. The Sabres would have to make a roster move to activate the forward from injured reserve. … Friday was the Leafs’ second and final visit here this season.