Amerks (Sabres) Season Preview: Betweeen the pipes

Buffalo Sabres training camp was supposed to have opened last Friday. Instead, Tyler Ennis agreed to hop over the pond to Switzerland, Christian Ehrhoff was beginning his stint back in Germany and other Sabres were pondering European deals as well.

While it doesn’t seem as if the Sabres will be starting up any time soon, the Amerks have been injected with some extra talent (from their parent club) and have a deep, overpopulated roster to sort through before the puck drops on the AHL season.

The most difficult decisions for Ron Rolston and his staff will be at forward and defense, where the surplus of players is significant. However, the most delicate situation that Rolston and the organization as a whole will need to deal with is in net.

David Leggio is back for another season with the club but will have some interesting company this season. Rookies Nathan Lieuwen and Connor Knapp will each be entering their initial professional seasons but in a situation where two’s company and three is typically a crowd.

Leggio is the unquestioned starter after finding his way into Rolston’s good graces with consistently solid play last year. This was a pleasant surprise for the WNYer because of the contract given to AHL journeyman Drew MacIntyre who was signed to provide more stability as Buffalo’s third goaltender. However, one year removed from outperforming Jhonas Enroth in Portland, Leggio did it again to another goaltender who was tabbed as the superior talent.

The big step here is that Leggio is just one injury away from stepping in as the Sabres backup. This is likely something that the Sabres are at least somewhat concerned with because of the massive question mark that is Leggio’s ability at the NHL level. While he is a very good AHL goalkeeper, there is nothing that indicates how strong he would be filling time in the show.

Leggio’s presence will stabilize the Amerks crease and give the team a reliable starter for a majority of their regular season contests. He should also serve as a tutor of sorts for Lieuwen and Knapp. Where the situation gets sticky is the way in which the two rookies will be rotated. Continue reading

Sabres crease grows crowded with Lieuwen contract

The Buffalo Sabres are slowly growing an impressive stable of talented goaltenders at the NHL and minor league level. Their most recent addition was signing Nathan Lieuwen to an entry level contract, one year after he was drafted.

Lieuwen was an overage junior last year and there was even a chance that he could have been signed to a pro deal over last summer. However, he was sent back to the WHL to play big minutes and continue to develop. Now the 6’5” 20 year old will battle for playing time in Rochester with David Leggio and Connor Knapp.

The addition of Lieuwen gives the Sabres five goaltenders under contract and even more talented keepers who sit in limbo entering the offseason. Brad Eidsness was once a promising prospect through two seasons with North Dakota, but he was unseated by Aaron Dell and will likely not receive a contract from the Sabres. Buffalo also signed Jeff Jakaitis to a minor league deal in order to provide Gwinnett with some additional talent. Jakaitis seemed to show some real promise before getting shelved with a season ending injury. There is also the looming status of Drew MacIntyre, who will be a UFA this summer after a very underwhelming season in Rochester.

There is no reason for the Sabres to re-sign MacIntrye this season, but that doesn’t mean the goaltending pipeline won’t be clogged heading into 2012-13. With Ryan Miller the obvious leader of the pack and backed up by Jhonas Enroth, the Sabres also have impending UFA David Leggio along with Knapp and Lieuwen as AHL goaltenders. Continue reading

Buffalo Sabres season preview: Between the pipes

This is part one of a series previewing the Buffalo Sabres 2011-12 season. Part one focuses on the goaltenders.

Through the highs and lows in the Sabres history there seems to always been one constant. Sound goaltending has always been something the Sabres have boasted. As they enter the year with Ryan Miller as their starter they once again have no issues between the pipes.

However, unlike the past four seasons, the Sabres have a sound insurance policy as a back-up goaltender. Jhonas Enroth, whose play down the stretch helped secure the Sabres’ playoff position, will serve as Miller’s primary back-up for the entire season. Enroth will provide added stability to a position that was already the strength of the team. Continue reading