As Nathan Lieuwen prepares to make his third start and fifth appearance for the Buffalo Sabres tonight against the New Jersey Devils, newly named head coach Ted Nolan shed a little light on the situation with Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth.
During his presser earlier today, Nolan was asked questions related to the status of the former starters before both we out due to injuries, more specifically, their progression to return.
“About the same,” Nolan said, “Enroth came out on the ice today, but he just stepped out on the ice so he probably is still a little ways away.
This begs the question, “Why rush?”
With Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth still out due to lower body injuries, should Buffalo just pull the plug on them and shut them down for the remainder of the season and leave the net to Matt Hackett and Nathan Lieuwen?
It makes sense if you think about it.
Buffalo, for one thing, has probably one of the deepest goalie pools among the NHL and their AHL affiliates. So why not just leave Jhonas and Michal off the ice for the time being?
What do we have to lose?
Buffalo sits firmly in last place of the league, with eyes set on the first pick in the draft. Why would it be a big deal? While Buffalo has continued to ride this skid and what we hope is a rare season, only being able to earn 20 wins, let’s just leave the net to Lieuwen and Hackett.
Even in the extreme off-chance that Buffalo goes on an 8-game win streak and the other last place teams besides the Oilers lose out, Buffalo would still have last place on lock. So there’s that. Edmonton would also need just two wins to bury us completely.
Eight games remain on the schedule, so it is definitely a great opportunity to see what more they can do for Buffalo.
It’s almost a win-win. Enroth and Neuvirth get the rest, and the organization can see what value this group of goaltenders has.
Right now, it’s all about who is playing and who puts us in the right direction to what Buffalo has been lacking for years now, winning.
Since losing both of our starters in Jhonas and Michal, Buffalo has been 1-4-1 between both Hackett and Lieuwen, with Hackett earning the 3-1 win
In my prediction, Enroth and Neuvirth will get the NHL spots, depending on if we retain them come the free agency. Hackett and Lieuwen are also fighting for a spot, but I think they might just return to the Americans.
Just like the New York Lottery, “Hey, you never know.”
If Ted Nolan is preparing to build his bridge to next season, he should plan on splitting time between the two, giving them four games apiece, which is the perfect situation at this point.
It’s important to know what we have to work with. Since the Sabres traded Miller, Buffalo’s goaltending tandem has changed five times, even including Ryan Vinz and Jaroslav Halak dressing for the games.
Five times and six goalies. Four of which have actually played a game in net. If this was baseball, we would at least have the start of a bullpen.
If I were Nolan and Murray, my first goal come April 14th would be to decide what happens in net.
Because I believe no one could pull off a Philadelphia Flyers three-man goalie rotation, this is an issue that needs to be resolved as soon as they can. Since this is a rebuild, and Tim Murray has made it clear nobody is safe, could we be seeing a new tandem in the near future? There are some players in the upcoming free agency that could find a way to Buffalo one way or another, and Murray could be the guy to make it happen. Whether it is in the free agency, or looking late into the draft to further add to the class of goaltenders Buffalo retains, Buffalo is smarter to just go with the youngsters. There are plenty of names that will hit the market who could fit into Buffalo fairly well.
Looking at what we have now, if Buffalo keeps this pool of goalies intact, then Buffalo should have little to no trouble fixing the situation if and when the injury trend returns among the net-minders. Shut them down, let Hackett and Lieuwen take the time to play and start fresh this offseason, along with the rest of the team.