Derek Roy on the left wing? It could happen when the Buffalo Sabres take the ice Wednesday in HSBC Arena against the Ottawa Senators, or maybe coach Lindy Ruff will do a never-mind with the experiment he tried in practice Monday afternoon.
In their initial workout since learning Thomas Vanek will be out three to four weeks after surgery for a fractured jaw, Ruff moved Roy for the first time since the 2006 playoffs and put him on the wing with Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford.
Roy played the wing for Team Canada in last year's World Championships with Eric Staal and Martin St. Louis, and for the Sabres in '06 on a line with Chris Drury and Mike Grier. Ruff said the move is not "etched in stone" and will be looked at in practice again today.
"It's maybe something we look at a game, maybe a line that isn't even there at [today's] practice but we thought we'd take a look at it," Ruff said. "There's a lot of skill obviously on the line, an opportunity for three very creative guys to be together. But sometimes you put all your creative guys together, there's not enough smack."
Roy said he didn't mind the move and had no problem quickly adjusting to an unfamiliar position.
"It's definitely different," he said. "At center, you're making all the plays and skating through the ice. At wing, you get less touches, make less plays. You turn more into a shooter and a grinder. I have to change my game a little bit for the sake of the team."
Ruff said one negative to the switch was that he still considers Roy one of the team's top three centers along with Connolly and Jochen Hecht. At practice Monday, the other lines were Hecht centering for Clarke MacArthur and Jason Pominville, Matt Ellis between Patrick Kaleta and Ales Kotalik and Adam Mair between Daniel Paille and Andrew Peters.
Paille, mired in a slump that has seen him score just one goal in the last 18 games, has been a healthy scratch the last two. But he is expected to get back into the lineup Wednesday.
"It's Danny's opportunity to step it up," Ruff said. "Ice time is something you have to cherish and do something with."
Ruff said Vanek's injury was much more severe than the jaw fracture suffered last month by Teppo Numminen. The 40-year-old had minor surgery, didn't need to have the jaw wired shut and missed only six games after getting struck from a shot by Carolina's Tim Gleason. Vanek's jaw is wired and that's a huge difference.
"Now you're talking nutrition," Ruff said. "You can't eat normal, you can't work out right away. That's a little bit bigger setback. Teppo was really minor, no wiring of anything, a little displacement that was fixed and he could keep working out right away."
Roy said the players knew Vanek was probably dealing with a long-term injury when they saw the team's iron man sprint from the ice after taking a shot to the face from Ottawa's Anton Volchenkov. Vanek had played 225 straight games.
"That's definitely a big blow for us," Roy said. "Good leader, player, great guy. We're definitely going to miss him. . . . We were holding our breath and hoping the best for him. Now that we found out the news, it's a tough gap to fill but somebody has got to step up."
Defenseman Mike Weber remains with Buffalo and has not been returned to Portland for the Pirates' game here with Albany tonight. Ruff said Andrej Sekera is close to being ready and could rejoin the Buffalo lineup Wednesday.
"We're still deciding," Ruff said about Sekera, who has been out with a high ankle sprain suffered Jan. 14 in Chicago. "He feels like he's pretty close."