There is no denying that when Tim Connolly is at full health, the Buffalo Sabres are far more dangerous offensively.
The crafty, 6'-1", 200 lb. center can not only turn a defenseman inside out, but also has a knack for making big plays in clutch situations.
Now with Connolly back in the lineup, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has a lot more flexibility when choosing line mates. Saturday night, Connolly was skating with Thomas Vanek and Ales Kotalik. Connolly was able to tally two goals in a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
With Connolly now centering Vanek and Kotalik, Ruff has placed Derek Roy with Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville. Both Hecht and Pominville have struggled in recent games and Ruff hopes Roy can be a catalyst for his new line mates.
Roy leads the team in points through 45 games with 42(16,26). Along with Vanek, Roy has been the Sabres most consistent source on offense. No matter who number nine is centering, the Sabres are confident they will get production from his line.
The Sabres have much more balance, and depth when both Connolly and Roy are in the lineup. And also gives them two, maybe three solid scoring lines. The line of Paul Gaustad, Drew Stafford and Clarke MacArthur also has a more balanced attack.
The Sabres have lacked four true centers all season long with the absence of Connolly. Hecht, who has only been playing center since the departure of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, will be back playing left wing where he is more comfortable. Roy, Connolly, Gaustad and Mair/Ellis are currently listed as the Sabres centers.
The Sabres have won six of eight games so far in 2009 and have sole possession of the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference standings.
Their next game will be Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, just two points behind the Sabres.
Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen was injured in Saturday nights game versus the Hurricanes.
Numminen took a puck to the face when he got in the way of a Carolina defenseman's shot from the point midway through the second period.
Numminen immediately fell to the ice in pain and stayed down until he was able to skate off on his own. There was no apparent cut, or blood, so it seemed as though he was OK. After missing just a few shifts, Numminen was back on the ice to finish the period.
After the game against Carolina, Numminen was further examined and team doctors revealed that Numminen had suffered a fractured bone in his jaw.
Numminen had to have surgery to repair the fractured bone and is expected to be sideline for a few weeks.
Numerous times this season, Sabres fans including myself, have said that Numminen may have lost a step or two and that maybe he should be benched for a few games to allow for some of our young defensemen like Chris Butler and Mike Weber to see some ice time.
Lindy Ruff obviously disagrees with that statement because the 40-year-old defenseman hasn't missed a game all season. Yes, the same guy that missed 80 games last year after having open heart surgery hasn't skipped a beat at all in the 2008-2009 campaign.
It is no secret that Teppo is one of the most respected players in all of hockey. Players and coaches know what he has overcome in the last few seasons.
Many young, finesse players in the game today would have been down and out after taking a puck to the face. And then there are guys like Numminen who have an unconditional love for the game. He didn't immediately go to the dressing room to receive treatment. He shook it off, and was back on the ice in a few shifts.
In the third period Numminen's shifts were limited, but he still finished the game.
I have all the respect in the world for players like Teppo Numminen.