LEWISTON — While others hoped to raise their stock within the organization, Sabres goalie prospect Jhonas Enroth must have felt like he left the team’s development camp at Niagara University a notch lower than he entered it.
Not that Enroth did anything wrong. In fact, during Thursday’s scrimmage at Dwyer Arena, the team’s second-round pick from 2006 captained the winning side in a 4-3 victory.
But after Monday’s opening session, Enroth fielded questions about the potential for backing up Ryan Miller this season, rather than returning to his now familiar post in Portland of the American Hockey League.
Enroth was guarded in his optimism, especially since he later admitted he’d heard rumors the team might re-sign veteran goalie Patrick Lalime. The rumors became reality on Wednesday.
Enroth maintained the same tone after Lalime’s signing, insisting he’s excited about the chance to return to Portland for a third season.
“There’s a lot of things I still have to learn. If I have to play there next year I’m going to go down and do my best,” said Enroth, who was injured late in the season last year and couldn’t help the Pirates in the playoffs. “We had a really good team down there and I think we could’ve had a really good chance to go deep. But it is what it is. I’m trying to focus on the things I can and do my job.”
Coach Lindy Ruff said following Friday’s session that there isn’t a precise script to Enroth’s upcoming season. Lalime is 36 and although he played well at the end of last season, his age could become a factor. If Enroth isn’t ready to take over the backup role this year, it would seem he’d be ripe for the job next year, but the coaching staff isn’t certain how things will play out.
“We gave [Enroth] a game last year. We would like to see him play very well and maybe have an opportunity to play. If Patty Lalime is playing very well that may limit what we do with Jhonas,” Ruff said. “There’s no guarantees when it comes to what we’re going to do. I think it’ll be all dictated by how the players themselves play.”
Through the maturation process, Enroth has had to learn that playing pro hockey can be a cold and callous business. After being bombarded with questions about being the newly anointed backup at the beginning of camp, Enroth said Thursday that he learned of Lalime’s signing on the Internet, not from someone within the organization.
At the very least, he could take solace in knowing that a return to the AHL will mean plenty of ice time.
“That’s how it is in this business,” he said. “Obviously, it’s better to play every game. And it’s going to be fun to go back there and play.”