Buffalo Sabres captain Brian Gionta suffered what Dan Bylsma is calling a lower body injury and is in jeopardy of missing the opener Thursday against the Senators. With Gionta originally playing with Jack Eichel and Matt Moulson, rookie Sam Reinhart has taken the veteran's place after making the roster. Eichel and Reinhart played together in the prospects challenge in September so their chemistry has grown as the summer went on.
There was some speculation as to whether or not the Sabres would keep Reinhart on the roster. With David Legwand and Johan Larsson battling with Reinhart for what appeared to be two spots, it seemed the former second overall pick could be sent back down to Rochester. However with Reinhart producing 3 assists and showing a lot of play making ability in the preseason, Bylsma felt it was better for Reinhart to remain in the NHL.
Reinhart will get his first action Thursday night if Gionta is unable to dress. With Eichel and Moulson playing with Reinhart, I expect the line to have immediate success even with the lack of experience between Eichel and Reinhart.
The question will be whether or not Reinhart will be a healthy scratch or be sent down when Gionta returns. If Reinhart and Eichel look good together, it will be hard for Bylsma to keep the dynamic two way forward off the ice.
With Legwand being an intricate part of the penalty kill and a mentor to the young skaters, it seems it will be down to one spot between Larsson and Reinhart. Either way its going to be hard to keep two very highly regarded young skaters from playing on a consistent basis.
Although Legwand fits the mold better of a fourth line forward, I would like to suggest keeping Reinhart and Larsson in the lineup. With Deslauriers and either Foligno or Mcginn pairing up on the fourth line, I think having Larsson playing on the fourth line would give an added offensive boost to the line. Yes the fourth line needs to be able to lock down opposing forwards defensively, however Larsson is a smart player that can play on both ends of the ice.
It is a good problem to have for the Sabres when a productive player won't be dressed after Gionta returns. However if the Sabres want their young core to grow together early in the season, I would suggest removing Legwand from the lineup. Just a thought.