BUFFALO – Ted Nolan said he isn’t down on or losing patience with Sabres center Ville Leino.
So why did the interim coach scratch the Finn, who has zero goals this season, for Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout win against the Ottawa Senators inside the First Niagara Center?
“Certain players with a certain skill set, they have to bring it,” Nolan said prior to the game. “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 to 13:18 in Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Montreal. His last performance was just one part of the benching, 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 deserved 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 and only 12 shots in 18 games, acknowledged “last game wasn’t my best.”
“It was all right,” said Leino, a healthy scratch Nov. 8 under former coach Ron Rolston. “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.”
He 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.”
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 scored, either.”
The Sabres began Tuesday with 48 goals in 30 games.
Nolan has mostly been sitting players briefly, so Leino could be back soon.
“It’s been like that, but I don’t know,” Leino said. “Now it’s my turn and we’ll see how long it is.”
Leino’s in the third season of a six-year, $27 million contract.
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Sabres won’t name a new general manager until 2014 or close to the Olympic break.
McKenzie said the team’s candidate list has grown to 6-10 names.
The Sabres have asked for permission to speak with Mike Fuda, Los Angeles’ director of amateur scouting.
Nolan on the shift he has noticed among the struggling Sabres in the last week or so:
“The good guys are starting to rise a little bit, and the guys who are not putting that effort in game in, game out, they’re starting to stick out a bit, too. So one thing you do with the team is you kind of hold them accountable to one another. So it’s starting to work itself out.
“I said before there’s patience. But we don’t get that confused with avoiding. We’re in the production business. We have to perform. If we’re not performing, maybe you’ll have to sit and watch for a while.”
Despite receiving regular action on top lines, Sabres winger Matt D’Agostini, a waiver acquisition Nov. 27, has zero points in five games.
“You don’t get chances like this too many times,” D’Agostini said. “I know this is a good chance to kind of revitalize myself and my career.”
D’Agostini skated with Luke Adam and Cody Hodgson on Tuesday.