Jason Pominville, Brad Boyes, Jose Theodore

Ruff expresses optimism about improved health of Sabres


The Buffalo Sabres are a banged-up bunch, but some of the team’s smaller maladies might be clearing up. John Vogl of the Buffalo News reports that head coach Lindy Ruff is “cautiously optimistic” about explosive winger Jason Pominville’s chances of playing through flu-like symptoms, but that’s not the only positive update.

Today marked the first day that embattled free agent addition Ville Leino managed to skate with the team since breaking his foot while blocking a shot on Dec. 13. Leino even brought up the idea of coming back on Saturday, although he admitted that a window of next week is probably more realistic.

Hot-and-cold scorer Brad Boyes’ status is a little bit more of a mystery for tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, as Boyes is dealing with a “stinger” to his injured ankle.

Roy needs to turn things around

Derek Roy might be the player affected most by Pominville’s coin-flip status. He’s been relatively disappointing this season with 23 points in 38 games, but skated with high-flying winger Thomas Vanek and Zack Kassian in practice today. That might give him a needed boost, but he could get bumped off that top line if Pominville plays.

Then again, Ruff told Vogl that it’s up to Roy – not his linemates – to get things going again.

“I look at how many inside opportunities a player gets and it’s not whether somebody  else can get him going. You’ve got to get yourself going,” Ruff said. “And that’s by getting to the inside. That’s when you’ve got to get down on your knees and stick the puck in your teeth and crawl into the net. That’s how dirty you’ve got to get when it isn’t going as good as you want it to go.”

That doesn’t sound very legal or sanitary, but I like the spirit (and the mental image). Either way, it sounds like the Sabres are gradually getting a little healthier, which is great news for a team that needs it.

Fabbri primed to make Blues in significant role

Jason Demers, Robby Fabbri
AP Photo
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With the start of the regular season just around the corner, it looks like Robby Fabbri will not only make his NHL debut on Thursday, but also get meaningful minutes.

During Sunday’s practice the 19-year-old forward played alongside Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz. Nothing is set in stone, but that combination did gel.

“I think we want to look at what the combinations look like now rather than do it at the start of the season,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re looking at a hard match line and we’re also looking at taking advantage of speed and skill off the rush.

“I really liked what I saw today. I really liked Lehtera’s line, they looked very dynamic off the rush.”

The top line of Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, and Vladimir Tarasenko seems like a good bet to play together for the time being. Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz will stick together on the second line while Dmitrij Jaskin and David Backes can expect to be regular partners on the third unit. The X-factors will be Fabbri and Troy Brouwer as Hitchcock has left the door open to alternating between the two of them on the second and third line depending on the opponent.

Fabbri was taken with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and is looking to make the leap after a brief stint in the AHL last season. At the OHL level, he’s been a dominate force with the Guelph Storm, scoring 25 goals and 51 points in 30 games in 2014-15.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.