BUFFALO – Ted Nolan wanted to give his lines a long look. The interim Sabres coach figured he couldn’t ask his players for consistency if he kept shuffling the trios.
But after a string of losses and more meager offensive production, Nolan switched up his combinations Monday.
“Our top line is having a little bit of trouble, maybe the chemistry wasn’t quite right,” Nolan said following practice inside the First Niagara Center. “We talked to (them) and decided instead of trying to have one, we’d try to have three. So we have get this thing turning around together. It’s not going to be one or two individuals; it’s going to be a collective response, so hopefully this works.”
The new lines, which the Sabres will probably use for tonight’s home game against the Ottawa Senators from left to right:
– Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons.
– Luke Adam, Cody Hodgson and Matt D’Agostini.
– Marcus Foligno, Steve Ott and Drew Stafford.
– John Scott, Ville Leino, Cody McCormick and Brian Flynn.
The top line had been Moulson, Hodgson and Stafford. Scott was scratched last game.
“The goals haven’t been coming in bunches like it would be nice to be,” Ennis said. “I think a little shakeup was necessary.”
Leino, whose ice time dropped about six minutes Saturday, has skated on the fourth line occasionally this season.
“We got to get certain people playing better,” Nolan said. “Playing OK is not good enough.”
The Sabres will make at least one lineup change tonight, inserting defenseman Brayden McNabb, a healthy scratch the last four games.
“He’s right there at the cusp of being a permanent NHL player,” Nolan said.
McNabb manned a point on the power play during Monday’s practice.
Defenseman Alexander Sulzer also practiced Monday for the first time since injuring himself Nov. 30. Nolan said he’s out tonight.
“Just a little lower body issue going on,” Sulzer said.
Nolan also said 19-year-old Rochester defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen will likely be playing for Finland soon at the world junior championship.
“I imagine he is,” Nolan said. “One thing with the American Hockey League, you have to get permission more so than junior teams. They just automatically go. So I’m quite sure we’ll have to give him permission to play there.”