Struggling Leino excited to face Flyers; Pronger skating

  UPDATED: Based on the pregame skate, here are the lines for tonight in Buffalo:

   * Giroux centering Jagr and Hartnell.

Former Flyer Ville Leino, who signed a six-year, $27 million free-agent deal with the Sabres in the offseason, has been struggling. He has just one goal and one assist in 10 games. (LEN REDKOLES / NHLI, Getty Images)

    * Couturier centering JVR and Voracek.

    * Talbot centering Nodl and Simmonds.

    * Holmstrom centering Shelley and Rinaldo.

   * * *

    BUFFALO _ Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff, whose team hosts the Flyers on Wednesday night, says struggling forward Ville Leino is putting too much pressure on himself.

“He needs something good to happen out there to feel good about how he’s playing, and there hasn’t been a lot good going on,” Ruff said after the Sabres’ morning skate on Wednesday. ”I think this is a great opportunity for him to get something going.”

Leino, the former Flyer who signed a six-year, $27 million free-agent deal with the Sabres in the off-season, has just one goal and one assist and is minus-4 in 10 games.

On Wednesday night, Leino will be given a chance to break out of his prolonged slump. For the first time this season, he will center high-scoring wingers Thomas Vanek (15 points) and Jason Pominville (14 points).

“I’m excited to see what these lines will look like,” Ruff said. “Maybe we can spur a little more offense.”

“The first game is different, but it’s going to be fun,” said Leino about facing his ex-teammates.

He had dinner Tuesday night with the Flyers’ Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen.

Adjusting to a new team “has been a little different,” Leino said. “The systems are different. The players are different. It’s been a little been of a battle. Some days you feel good; some days you’re kind of wondering what’s going on, but we’ll work on it and I’m sure we’ll get better.”

Ruff said “it might take half a year before a player gets comfortable” with his new team. “There’s lot of examples _ James Neal when he went to Pittsburgh last year. It takes time to know your teammates; it takes time to know your coaches. It’s finding a fit. I’ve liked his compete level.”

Early in the preseason, Leino demonstrated great puck possession, “but we had no pucks going to the net,” Ruff said. “And at the end of the night, we had nothing to show for it. I should have nipped that, but we’re trying to be patient and let him make some plays. And it wasn’t just him.”

Leino feels more comfortable playing wing _ his position with the Flyers _ but Ruff has him at center. The coach compared Leino’s situation with Danny Briere’s when he arrived in Buffalo.

“It doesn’t mean he’s going to fit right where I’ve got him right now,” Ruff said. “But I know he’ll fit; it’s no different when Danny Briere got here. Danny didn’t want to play center and he felt wing would be his best spot and I felt center would be his best. Eventually he ended up at center, and that was his position, so I have lots of experience to rely on.”

Ruff said Leino “feels a lot of pressure and feels he has let a lot of people down. I said to him, ‘You just have to concentrate on playing good hockey and the results will come.’ ”

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For the first time since he injured his right eye, Chris Pronger skated Wednesday in Voorhees. He will also skate tomorrow and, if he gets a good report from the eye doctor on Friday, he will practice with the team Friday or Saturday, GM Paul Holmgren said.

* * *

Odd stats: At home, Buffalo is 1-3 and the Flyers are 3-3-1. On the road, the Sabres are 5-1 (including a win in Europe) and the Flyers are 3-1.

* * *

Ilya Bryzgalov (4-4-1, 3.16 GAA, .880 save percentage) opposes the Sabres Ryan Miller (4-4, 2.14, .930) in the teams’ first meeting since the Flyers won an opening-round, seven-game playoff series last spring. The Flyers tonight will likely use just eight players from that team: Braydon Coburn, Andreas Nodl, Hartnell, James van Riemsdyk, Matt Carle, Claude Giroux, Timonen, Andrej Meszaros and Jody Shelley. Shelley or Nodl could sit.


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