Few plays in hockey draw a bigger reaction than a glove save. There’s just something about the big leather mitt snatching a puck out of midair that gets fans and players going.
Jhonas Enroth’s glove has been hot all week. He hasn’t been shy about showing it off.
The Buffalo Sabres’ backup goaltender brazenly waved the leather back and forth after several stellar catches in training camp, demonstrating to the shooters who had the edge.
“It was pretty funny,” Enroth said Wednesday. “Guys were giving me a little [grief] after, but it was a good glove day, for sure.
“I’ve been here for a couple years, and I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable with stuff like that. Outside the rink, too, I’m more comfortable after being here for a while now. I’m starting to feel more at home.”
While he’s more comfortable in Buffalo, he knows he shouldn’t get too accustomed to being in the crease. Coach Lindy Ruff has already penciled in Ryan Miller for about 38 of the team’s 48 games.
Enroth watched most of last season from the bench, too, especially after Miller got hot. Enroth made just three starts from Jan. 19 to the season finale April 7. He made 22 starts in 26 appearances, going 8-11-4.
This season will be a little different, though. The schedule is compressed, and no one should benefit more in Buffalo than Enroth. Even if Miller starts four of every five games, Enroth will be idle only seven to 10 days rather than the two or three weeks he’d sit in a normal calendar.
“It’s a lot of games in a short period of time, so it’s good for me, I guess,” he said. “I’m excited to start playing games again.”
Enroth went home to Sweden during the lockout and signed with a team in the country’s second division. He played 12 games, including one that he’d rather forget. He and his Almtuna teammates hopped on the bus early on a Sunday morning, rode for eight hours, suffered a 4-1 loss and came all the way back home.
“It was a bad day for us,” the 24-year-old said.
He had a few with Buffalo. While he improved his goals-against average (2.70) and save percentage (.917) from the previous season, he went 0-8-3 in his last 11 decisions. That won’t cut it this year, especially if he gets only a dozen starts or so.
“We’re going to have to use both guys, and both guys are going to have to win us games,” Ruff said. “We know when we’re starting to play the heavy parts of the schedule your goaltender needs a break. You can ride him, but what a luxury if Jhonas can step in and win games for us.”
Said Miller: “I like where his game’s at. I think he’s done a good job making adjustments. It’s good to have him as a partner. If the two of us get going on the type of games we can play, I think we can hold the fort.”
The Sabres have changed their camp schedule and will take today off. They’ll finish with practices from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The public is welcome to both.
The day off coincides with the last waiver period before final rosters must be submitted. The Sabres have 26 players in camp and must get down to 23 before 3 p.m. Friday. Waivers begin at noon and last 24 hours.
Though they’ve participated fully in practice, it’s possible the Sabres could place forwards Nathan Gerbe (back) and Cody McCormick (finger) on injured reserve. If so, they’d have to waive only one player in an attempt to send him to Rochester. That would be only a temporary fix, however, since the return of both seems imminent.
Nearly everyone on the roster would need to clear waivers in order to be sent to Rochester. Several Amerks, including Kevin Porter and Nick Tarnasky, also must go through the waiver process because they’re on NHL contracts.
“We have guys to make decisions on,” said Miller, whose team is carrying 15 forwards, nine defensemen and two goalies. “With that amount of talent, there are some guys in my mind — maybe I shouldn’t even say it because it could spark somebody’s interest — but waivers becomes an issue for some of our guys, so it’s going to be interesting to see what decisions are being made.
“We have a lot of talent here. Everybody in this room can contribute and play a part. It should be interesting.”
The Sabres could send 18-year-old center Mikhail Grigorenko to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but that seems like a long shot. He’s spent the entire week between veteran wingers Steve Ott and Ville Leino, so the Sabres are probably going to give him a five-game tryout before deciding his future.
“It really is the toughest question to answer,” Ruff said. “I just know if we feel he’s ready to help us win, we’ll use those games. We’ll make that decision at the end of the week. If we feel he’s ready, that he can help us win hockey games, he’ll in all likelihood be there.”