With training camp underway at First Niagara Centre, line combinations are starting to be revealed as the team hits the ice. Although camp has just begun and line combos can obviously be changed, Ron Rolston has nailed the first two lines. Unlike last year, players have a full training camp and also preseason games to develop some chemistry, so hopefully this will pay dividends for the Buffalo Sabres.
All offseason I have been preaching that Thomas Vanek needs a big winger to play with, who can win battles in the corners and intimidate opponents with his size. Ron Rolston did exactly that by inserting Marcus Foligno on the first line. It was a given that Hodgson and Vanek would be on the first line, but with the added presence of Foligno changes everything in a positive way. Foligno makes his living in the corners winning battles, so just imagine how much this will benefit Vanek and Hodgson. Not only will Foligno be winning puck battles in the corners and setting up goals, he will be strong in the defensive zone, winning puck possession and creating quality breakout opportunities for his line mates. If this line can develop chemistry early on in the season, look for Hodgson and Foligno to have career years, and Vanek to put up 30 plus goals as well. The sky’s the limit for the Sabres new first line.
This is an intriguing line in my opinion. The line of Ott, Grigorenko and Leino developed instant chemistry at the start of last training camp. It’s a shame that Leino was hurt at the beginning of last season because this obviously slowed down the development of Grigorenko. The makeup of this line is ideal for a second line. Steve Ott provides much needed energy and grit, and can contribute offensively as well. Leino (if he can stay healthy) is an artist with the puck and can be an elite playmaker. Throw in a young Grigorenko, who has lots of upside and a nice scoring touch and you have a fairly dynamic second line ready to do damage in the NHL.
It’s still early on and only time will tell, but Ron Rolston has done an exceptional job generating the top two lines. Both lines will have an even mix of size, scoring, playmaking and energy provided by Steve Ott and Marcus Foligno. It won’t too long before we see how these lines pan out, and there is no doubt that the play of the Sabres top 6 will be crucial to the team’s success.