WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 17: Jochen Hecht #55 of the Buffalo Sabres shoots the puck against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on November 17 2010 in Washington DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
The Buffalo Sabres have a problem, one that every team wishes it had. They have too many NHL-caliber forwards and not enough places to play them.
Jochen Hecht has been out all season recovering from a head injury, but on Tuesday team doctors cleared him for contact, and Hecht has been skating in practice since then. He's not currently practicing with any line consistently, but the versatility and experience of the long-time Sabre will most likely demand a roster spot upon his return.
Here's what Lindy Ruff (via WGR) had to say about #55's return to the ice:
"I don't think there's any reason to rule him out right now," said Ruff. "I don't think there's good enough reason to say he could play Friday yet, either."
So while Hecht may not be ready for Friday's game against Carolina, he'll be back soon - the question is, where do you put him, and who sits?
Lindy Ruff seems willing to stick with his top three forward lines for the time being, though the coach did mention today that he'd be willing to break up the line of Gerbe-Roy-Stafford if their production doesn't increase. Were Ruff to stick with his current lines, the most obvious place for Hecht would be on the fourth line, along with Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta, with Cody McCormick the likely candidate to sit. In this scenario, Hecht most likely plays wing due to Gaustad's ability in the circle.
However, the line of Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta looked great in the playoffs last year and in this preseason, so Ruff may want to reunite the "Two and a Half Men" line and try sticking Hecht with Roy and Stafford in order to try and get Roy back on track. Even with this set-up, I really can't see anyone other than Cody McCormick being the healthy scratch.
With that all being said, Lindy Ruff has shown a tendency in the past to keep a good thing going by leaving a healthy player in the pres box as long as the team is winning, so there's always the possibility that Hecht doesn't re-enter the lineup as long as the team keeps up its winning ways.
Let's play coach for a minute, Sabres fans - what would you do in Lindy Ruff's position?