According to the Buffalo Sabres’ official website, Head Coach Lindy Ruff has decided to shake things up a little before the Olympic break.
The small shakeup comes after the Sabres—who are in the midst of a season-worst five-game skid—lost in a 3-2 shootout to the equally struggling Boston Bruins.
During Wednesday’s practice, Ruff dropped Thomas Vanek to play alongside Mike Grier, with Tim Kennedy centering the two. In addition, Clarke MacArthur will now take Vanek’s spot and play on a line with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford.
The line of Tim Connolly, Jochen Hecht, and Jason Pominville will stay together, as will the line of Adam Mair, Paul Gaustad, and Matt Ellis.
The fact that Ruff has decided to change things up before the Olympic break does not come as a surprise. However, what he decided to do does come as surprise.
“I’m looking for a road lineup that will get us the win,” Ruff told Sabres.com. “We’re trying to spread it out where one team can’t put out their so-called [top] defensive pair against one line or two lines. Now that it’s spread out amongst three, maybe we can get a little more balance.”
It seems more that certain players are not playing well right now, and putting them on different lines is not going to change that—it will more than likely make things worse.
Vanek, who happens to be playing particularly well as of late, will not be able to produce on a line with two guys who cannot get the puck to the net. Grier is known more for his defense than his offense, and Kennedy has struggled on both sides of the puck as of late.
Dropping Vanek to that line also means he is going to be playing more defense then offense because his center has a lot of trouble winning draws. Kennedy currently has the worst faceoff percentage in the league, an abysmal 34 percent (minimum 150 faceoffs).
The whole team is having a great deal of trouble offensively and defensively at the moment.
The best thing to do would be putting the third line of Hecht, Gaustad, and Grier back together—this would give Buffalo the outstanding defensive line that they have been missing for about a month.
Connolly and Pominville seem to be working great together—throw Vanek into that mix and that will be a great first line.
Putting MacArthur with Roy and Stafford will give Buffalo a nice transition between their first and third lines.
The fourth line is the most drastic change that needs to be made. While Ellis and Mair have played hard lately, they provide no offense—something the team needs now more than ever.
A great way to change things up on the fourth line would be to call up Tyler Ennis and have him center fellow AHLers Nathan Gerbe and Mark Mancari. Even if just for the two games before the Olympic Break, it would give the Sabres a new look and if things don’t work out, they really can’t get any worse.