Winger Ville Leino sat out the Buffalo Sabres’ practice Saturday in First Niagara Center and his status for today’s season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers is uncertain.
Coach Lindy Ruff did not disclose the nature of Leino’s injury but it was believed to be related to his lower leg. Leino left the ice just before the end of Friday’s practice and did not skate Saturday.
“We’ll have him skate early [today] and we’ll see where he’s at,” Ruff said. “He’s a question mark. My discussions with him are that if he feels like he’s good and ready to roll, we’ll get him in. If he’s not, we’ll adjust the lineup.”
Jochen Hecht skated at wing in Leino’s spot on a line with rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko and veteran Steve Ott. Ruff said he might go with that alignment or move Patrick Kaleta up to the Grigorenko line. Either way, Matt Ellis will make the lineup on the fourth line if Leino is a scratch.
Injuries during the short camp were a huge fear for every NHL team. Forwards Nathan Gerbe (back) and Cody McCormick (finger) entered camp injured and will start the season on injured reserve but both are improving. Leino was the only Sabre to get dinged during camp.
“I tried to look into that week and make sure we didn’t do anything that would put us in a real tough spot,” Ruff said. “The day off [Thursday] was real important from a hydration standpoint and staying away from muscle pulls, to even not a lot of extra skating at the end to fatigue the players. We’ve come through it OK.”
Grigorenko said he’s been thrilled with the way teammates have been helping him all week and doesn’t feel he’ll be nervous in his NHL debut.
“Hopefully after warmup, I’ll be good,” Grigorenko said. “I don’t think nerves will last more than 1-2 shifts.”
“I’ve liked the way he’s played,” said goaltender Ryan Miller. “Skates well. He’s a good-sized kid. It appears like he understands what it takes to be a professional. He’s in the weight room doing what he needs to do. He’s on the ice trying to learn, paying attention.
“He’s trying to get up to speed on some of the things we do here. I think he’s been pretty solid. I don’t know which way it’s going to go but he’ll slot in. It’s good to have a young guy with energy.”
On draft night last June in Pittsburgh, Grigorenko said he was hoping to prove the Sabres right and many other teams wrong for passing him up until Buffalo took him at No. 12.
“I don’t care about other teams now,” he said Saturday. “I just want to prove to the Sabres they made the right choice in drafting me.”
Mike Weber and T.J. Brennan are going to be the healthy scratches on defense. The Sabres are going to start their defense pairs with Robyn Regehr playing with Tyler Myers, Andrej Sekera paired with Jordan Leopold and Alexander Sulzer working with Christian Ehrhoff.
The Sabres remind fans that season tickets for today’s game were originally printed with a noon start time before the league finalized the national television schedule and changed the game to 12:30. Tickets marked for a noon start remain valid.
Gates open at 10:15 a.m. The Sabres Store will open at 9 a.m. for the last day of the 50 percent off merchandise sale. There will be fan-friendly prices on some concessions ($1 popcorn, $2 peanuts, $3 hot dog/potato chip combo and $4.25 souvenir Sabres soda).
The Sabres said Saturday that the Feb. 3 Super Bowl Sunday matinee against the Florida Panthers is a sellout, the fifth one the team has announced out of the 24-game home schedule.