The looming dilemma was never more apparent than it was Saturday, as the Buffalo Sabres got two goals from Jack Eichel and key assists from Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane in their dramatic overtime win over Carolina.
For the first time in a long time, the Sabres seemed to have a legitimate No. 1 line. Three players. Not just a key guy, or a sound duo like coach Dan Bylsma often seeks out.
But with Ryan O'Reilly practicing fully Monday and seemingly certain to return to the lineup here Wednesday against Montreal Bylsma is going to split up his hottest line and spread out his offense. It's something he's doing after what he said was considerable thought.
Kane was with O'Reilly and Nic Deslauriers on Monday, while Eichel and Reinhart and now playing with Zemgus Girgensons.
"There's a little more of a long-term sight in mind as well," Bylsma said. "Evander adds speed next to Ryan and Jack has speed. And Sam next to Jack is an intelligent player he's blending with right now pretty well. It's kind of the look. Zemgus was on that line with Jack before Ryan's injury. Kind of a similar player a little bit how he can add to that line with that speed."
In seven games, Kane-Eichel-Reinhart combined for eight goals, 12 assists and 20 points. That's a lot to push aside. But Kane's best moments of the season have actually come with O'Reilly, so he understands Bylsma's thinking.
"It's good to see him back on the ice," Kane said of O'Reilly. "It obviously makes our forward lineup a lot stronger when you have him in the middle with Jack. Dan thought that would be the best lineup to go with to start and I'm looking forward to being with him.
"Me, Jack and 'Ryno' had quite a bit of success . Now that we know we can play like that, it obviously is an option if situations occur."
The line of Johan Larsson between Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta will stay intact. Dan Catenacci and Cal O'Reilly took turns on the fourth line with David Legwand and Matt Moulson; Bylsma said Cal O'Reilly could play some with his brother and Kane as well.
Goaltender Robin Lehner, who was nursing a minor injury and didn't play Saturday, was fine in practice today. Still no sign of Tyler Ennis or Cody Franson, although Bylsma said he has not given up hope of a return by Ennis this season. Ennis has been out since suffering his second concussion of the year Dec. 30 in Washington.