Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

February 9, 2012

Sabres' Leino staying positive, finally finding groove on wing

BUFFALO — On the toughest days, when the slump turned from weeks into months and the cries the Sabres had overpaid for a free agent bust grew louder, Ville Leino laughed and smiled.

Staying loose is Leino’s style. He’s not one to pout. The likable winger remained positive throughout a trying half a season or so. That’s just his personality, something he gets from his mother.

“I like being around people who are always in a good mood, fun to be around,” Leino said Thursday inside the First Niagara Center. “ … Everybody around the room is dealing with a lot of pressure, so … it doesn’t really help you to be in a bad mood.”

The Finn’s adjustment to the Sabres after signing a six-year, $27 million contract in July has admittedly been difficult. In 42 games, he has only four goals, 15 points and a minus-5 rating. He’s switched from center to the wing and back a few times.

But now, with a goal, five points and a plus-4 in the last four contests heading into tonight’s home tilt against the Dallas Stars, it appears Leino’s turning a corner. He’s showcasing strong chemistry playing left wing beside Derek Roy and Jason Pominville in Thomas Vanek’s absence.

In the Sabres’ 6-0 win Wednesday over Boston, Leino dazzled, setting up two Pominville goals, one with a nifty spin-o-rama. Leino was also a plus-3.

“(It’s) the most fun I’ve had and the best I’ve felt,” Leino said about his recent run.

It’s been a long time coming, though.

“It hasn’t been easy this season, definitely frustrating,” Leino admitted. “But I always try to be happy and not think about that so much. … It’s not going to ease up until you get your confidence back. I was working on my game and trying to do that.”

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