ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ville Leino finally got rid of an on-ice doughnut. All it earned him was a chance to sample press-box nachos.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston scratched the struggling forward Friday when Buffalo visited Anaheim, one night after Leino finally registered his first shot on goal this season. One shot in seven games is certainly not what Buffalo envisioned when General Manager Darcy Regier wooed Leino with a six-year, $27 million contract.
“We expect our veterans to be a big part of the team,” Rolston said in Honda Center. “To this point, he hasn’t been.”
Leino has one assist and a minus-2 rating this season. He spent the previous two games as a left winger on the fourth line, a far fall from the first- or second-line center position the Sabres pictured when Regier signed him prior to the 2011-12 season.
“I think obviously it’s still there,” Rolston said. “He’s missed a lot of hockey to his defense. I’m sure he’ll be back.”
Leino suffered a broken rib during the season opener and missed 11 games. He’d played in six straight and took his only shot Thursday during a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The 30-year-old has averaged 12:21 of ice time, which ranked in a tie for 20th on the Sabres entering the game against the Ducks.
Leino, whose salary cap hit is $4.5 million, is making $4 million this season. He has three years and $11 million left on his deal, which included a $9 million signing bonus that has already been paid.
Leino played just eight of the Sabres’ 48 games last season, primarily because of a hip ailment. He has 10 goals and 22 assists during his 86 games in Buffalo.
Forward Mikhail Grigorenko replaced Leino for the game, which did not end in time for this edition. The 19-year-old Russian was a healthy scratch the previous three games. Grigorenko started as a left winger on the fourth line with center Cody McCormick and right wing Drew Stafford.
The Sabres’ other three lines remained intact. Cody Hodgson centered left wing Matt Moulson and right wing Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno had Steve Ott and Corey Tropp as his wingers, while Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Flynn flanked Johan Larsson.
Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who suffered a lower-body injury against the Kings, missed his first game of the season. Rolston listed the blue-liner as day-to-day.
Ehrhoff’s description of the injury made it sound like a muscle strain.
“It was something that started developing in the first period, and then in the third period when I went up the ice it just got bad,” Ehrhoff said.
The defenseman leads the Sabres in ice time at 24:10 per game, which ranked in a tie for 23rd in the NHL heading into Friday’s schedule. Ehrhoff has no goals, four assists and a minus-3 rating in 18 games.
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov took Ehrhoff’s spot on the blue line. The 18-year-old Russian was a healthy scratch for the previous two games.
Zadorov started the night with Mark Pysyk as his partner. The other defense pairs were Henrik Tallinder with Tyler Myers, and Jamie McBain with Rasmus Ristolainen.
Tallinder served as an alternate captain in Ehrhoff’s absence.
Ryan Miller started in goal for the Sabres, while the Ducks countered with Frederik Andersen. The 24-year-old rookie had been a revelation for Anaheim.
Andersen entered the night at 4-0 with a 1.36 goals-against average and .952 save percentage in the opening four games of his career. He’s one of only three active goalies to win his first four NHL appearances.
The Sabres spent the night in Anaheim and were scheduled to fly back to Buffalo today. They host the Kings on Tuesday in their return to First Niagara Center.
The game, held the night after Veterans Day, is “Military Appreciation Night.” All retired and active members of the military can purchase tickets in Section 300 Level II for $20. The package is available at Sabres.com or by calling (888) GO-SABRES.
With the first week of November in the books, Sabres players are starting to sport interesting facial hair.
They are taking part in “Movember,” a monthlong movement that encourages men to grow mustaches to raise money and awareness to combat prostate and testicular cancer. Progress can be tracked at Sabres.com/Movember.