Mark LoMoglio/Icon SMI)
Individually, Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford each bring a unique element to the Buffalo Sabres. But as a unit, they’ve become a formidable opponent for opposing teams over the last few weeks.
Foligno’s youthful exuberance, combined with his physical prowess and size has been the necessary adhesive that has brought the unit together. While Ennis is an exceptional player in his own right, and Stafford is one of the clubs top shooters, their games have certainly taken the next step forward since Foligno has joined the team in a semi-permanent position.
Since Foligno joined the team on March 10th for his most recent call-up, the trio has combined for 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points in only eight games.
"I’m on a line with some really good players," Foligno told the SudburyStar.com on March 16th. "Ennis is like a waterbug out there when you get him some space, which is something I try to do."
While the recent run of the trio has been rather exceptional for a Sabres club who was in much need of such a line, head coach Lindy Ruff isn’t getting too caught up in the hype just yet – specifically when it comes to rookie Foligno.
"Marcus isn’t on an amazing run yet for me," Ruff told TSN.ca. "He’s put together a good number of games, and there will be a dropoff. There always is. It happens with all young players. But I just have to love the way (the line’s) playing right now and the hope is they can maintain a pretty good level."
It’s unfair to pin the playoffs hopes on a single line, but there’s no doubt that if the trio can maintain their pace for the remainder of the season it’ll go a long way to punching the Sabres ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The final sprint to the post-season will start tonight as the Sabres compete in one of their biggest games of the year. The club will travel to Washington for a pivotal match-up against the Capitals.
"I don’t think I need to sell anything (to the players)," Ruff told Sabres.com. "They know where they’re at. They understand where we can get to and how big the two points is."
Both Buffalo and Washington are battling for the East’s final playoff spot and have 84 points apiece.
Northeast Division Notes
Boston Bruins – Marty Turco’s victory on Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks was his first win in over a year. Brad Marchand is one point away from hitting the 50-point mark for the first time in his career. Recently signed free agent defenseman Torey Krug is expected to be in the lineup tonight as the Bruins host the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Buffalo Sabres – Ryan Miller was named the NHL’s second star of the week ending March 25th. He has four wins, a 1.26 goals-against average and a 0.956 save percentage through four games last week. Both Patrick Kaleta and Nathan Gerbe have been cleared to play tonight against the Capitals after missing three and six games respectively.
Montreal Canadiens – Tomas Kaberle skated for the first time since March 16. He’s not cleared for contact yet as he still recovers from an upper-body injury. Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen also skated, but on a different ice pad. Recently injured defenseman Yannick Weber is currently day-to-day with a lower body injury. The Canadiens will host the Florida Panthers tonight.
Ottawa Senators – Captain Daniel Alfredsson scored twice in the Senators 6-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday. Alfredsson has 6 points in his last two games. Ben Bishop, who was injured on Saturday, could be out for a few weeks with a lower body injury. The club has just seen Craig Anderson return from injury. Alex Auld will remain the teams’ backup for the immediate future. The Senators are off until Saturday when they’ll take a trip to Philadelphia for an afternoon matchup against the Flyers.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Clarke MacArthur, Matt Frattin and Mike Brown all declared themselves ready to go tonight, but whether they’ll play is uncertain. The Maple Leafs will host the Carolina Hurricanes tonight. Both teams sit at 75 points in the Eastern Conference.