TORONTO – Goalie Michal Neuvirth, once thought to be the Buffalo Sabres’ backup, will make his second consecutive start tonight in Toronto, coach Ted Nolan said.
What’s going on? Wasn’t Jhonas Enroth supposed to be the No. 1 goalie?
Tonight’s contest will be Neuvirth’s third nod in the last four games.
Nolan said Monday he never anointed Enroth, who’s played six contests, the starting netminder.
“I said he won the right to start the season,” Nolan said inside the First Niagara Center. “There’s a difference between starting goaltenders and starting the season. He certainly earned the right to start the season. Jhonas, he played well throughout the training camp … and he’s continued to play well.”
Both goalies have one win and similar numbers. Enroth has a 3.13 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. Neuvirth, meanwhile, has a 3.01 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
Neuvirth played well in Saturday’s 2-1 win in San Jose, stopping 29 shots.
“It’s not that we’ve given up on Jhonas, it’s just that the hot goaltender right now you got to go with,” Nolan said.
Enroth was the hot goaltender during the preseason as Neuvirth struggled. Now, it appears the two have become the tandem many expected they would be this season.
Nolan said 19-year-old defenseman Nikita Zadorov, a healthy scratch all but one game this season, could play again soon.
The Sabres are essentially stashing the rookie because he doesn’t have a release to play in junior from the Russian club that owns his rights.
Zadorov played six minutes, 12 seconds in his season debut Thursday, a 2-0 loss in Los Angeles.
“It’s day-to-day with Nikita, what we’re going to do,” Nolan said. “We’ll re-adjust that again. … I thought he played well in the game he played in L.A. He’s getting better and better in practice. We still got to remember he’s a real young player in this league. If he stays around here, he’ll get in some more games.”
Nolan said rookie center Sam Reinhart will make his eighth NHL appearance tonight. The 18-year-old can play nine times before his contract kicks in.
Reinhart earned his first NHL point, an assist, on Nick Deslauriers’ goal Saturday.
Nolan on the 2-7 Sabres needing time to mesh since they have so many new faces: “Sometimes it takes more than a month, more than two months, more than three months. Sometimes it takes a little while to adapt a whole culture change. You don’t do those things overnight.”
He said the Sabres are “doing it the old-fashioned way.”
“Nice and slow and methodical and thought out and developing, and changing the culture goes with that,” Nolan said.
He added: “I’m not saying it’s going to take a long, long time, but it’s going to take longer than a month.”