Ville Leino said it feels like he’s getting a second chance with the Buffalo Sabres. And while that may be true it’s also likely his last chance. But Leino has got some things in his favor. The biggest is that he’s healthy after nearly four years of nagging hip trouble. “It’s exciting” Leino said after taking part in a scrimmage Thursday on the opening day of camp in First Niagara Center. “New start new coach. I’m playing right wing which is my favorite spot. I’m healthy. Everything is going the way you want it to go at this point and I’m really excited to go back out there. It’s a new start and almost like I didn’t play for a year.” “He feels good. He wants to have a good year and we want him to have a good year for us” said coach Ron Rolston. “I think he finally feels he’s in the right spot right now.” Leino who will turn 30 on Oct. 6 had surgery on his right hip over the summer. So he now has a matching set of repairs to go with the surgically repaired left hip he had done in 2010. He was never close to full strength last year as the hip dogged him and then he suffered a lung injury. He played just eight games none until mid-March but had two goals and six assists. There was even plenty of talk the Sabres would be looking to buy out the final four years of his six-year $27 million contract signed on July 1 2011. But the injury made that a moot point so Leino and his $4.5 million cap hit is back again. But despite scoring just 10 goals in 79 games with Buffalo the last two years there’s a feeling Leino is unquestionably a player who can provide the Sabres badly-needed improvement in the puck possession department. Leino is known for being tough to get off the puck down low and that could also help the team’s power play. “We missed it a lot and we’ve been missing it for two years. It’s hard to win games when you don’t have the puck” Leino said. “You’re always behind and when you get the puck you don’t have as much energy because you’re always defending. … I’ll try to help my part there and that’s my game.” Leino is playing the wing with center Mikhail Grigorenko and left winger Steve Ott. It was a good looking line in the week before last year’s lockout-shortened season began but never got much of a chance during the season. The line generated some chances during Thursday’s action and Leino even got drilled from behind by Patrick Kaleta and tumbled over goaltender Jhonas Enroth.
Healthy Leino in position to help Sabres keep control of the puck
Buffalo News | Sep 13