BUFFALO – Ted Nolan said he isn’t down on or losing patience with Sabres center Ville Leino.
So why is the interim coach scratching the Finn, who has zero goals this season, tonight against the Ottawa Senators?
“Certain players with a certain skill set, they have to bring it,” Nolan said this morning inside the First Niagara Center. “And if you’re not going to play as well as you can, sometimes it’s better to sit and look and observe for a while, and hopefully when he gets back in he’ll play the way he’s capable of playing.”
Nolan cut Leino’s ice time about six minutes in Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Montreal. That’s just one part of sitting him, though.
“Not only that game, but the way he practiced yesterday,” said Nolan, who skated Leino on the fourth line Monday. “He didn’t practice all that well. I think we’re a product of our environment. If we don’t practice hard, how we going to play hard? It’s one of those things we have to set a certain standard here that you have to be accountable for, not just Ville, but everybody.”
Leino clearly doesn’t think he deserves to be scratched.
“I’m not sure what he wants out of me,” Leino said before stopping himself from making another comment.
The 30-year-old, who has five assists in 18 games, acknowledged “last game wasn’t my best.”
“It was all right,” said Leino, a healthy scratch once earlier this season. “But the five games before I thought I was making a lot of plays. Possession, our line was never in our end, a lot of scoring chances. I’m sure we should’ve capitalized on some of those scoring chances, myself and everyone else. At least there was a lot of zone time on those scoring chances.”
Leino understands players that haven’t been scoring are candidates to sit.
“Everybody knows that’s going to have to happen,” he said. “Saying that, there are a lot of other guys that haven’t score, either.”
Leino added: “I’ve been playing the game the way I’ve always been playing it. Just hasn’t gone in. I had a lot of good scoring chances. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”
In other lineup news, defenseman Brayden McNabb will replace Mike Weber. Tough guy John Scott will return. Goalie Ryan Miller will start.