If ever there was a time for Ville Leino to earn his paycheck for the Buffalo Sabres, now would be it. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Leino has outstanding offensive capabilities when he’s truly committed to making things happen in all three zones. He’s injury prone and tends to go on hot and cold streaks, but there’s no doubt that when he’s going, the Sabres are more dangerous.
Whether or not that’s because they aren’t very dangerous to begin with is irrelevant.
After suffering a cracked rib against the Detroit Red Wings on October 2, Leino sat out the next few weeks while recovering. He’s done more recovering for Buffalo than playing, but now would be a pretty good time to put all that in the past. Leino only played in eight games last season due to injury, and has proven pretty fragile since breaking into the league with the Wings back in 2008-09.
This is still a guy with considerable talent in the offensive zone, and could be a boost to a team that badly needs one. While Leino returning might not even be news worthy for one-third of the teams in the NHL, the Sabres are paying him to be one of their top-six forwards and to be a difference maker.
He only played 9:56 in his return against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but still managed to pick up an assist. With Mikhail Grigorenko struggling to find his game in any way, shape or form and Steve Ott not producing, Leiono could slot in on one of those lines and shake things up a bit.
It’s a long shot, sure. Yet desperate times call for desperate measures. If Buffalo doesn’t want to finish as a lotto team, then they need all hands on deck. That includes Leino. A healthy, productive Leino circa 2010-11.