Predict The Starting Lineup: The 1st Line

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 26: Derek Roy #9 of the Buffalo Sabres controls the puck against Blair Betts #11 of the Philadelphia Flyers in the first period of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 26, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

While we aren't the first to think of this idea as the folks at Buffalo Wins and other sites have already started the process of determining how the lines will stack up. 

First Line Center

First line center is probably the biggest question mark heading into the season. There are two candidates for that position, Derek Roy and Ville Leino, but each of the players comes with question marks. Derek Roy did play in Game 7 against the Flyers, but is still coming off a torn quadriceps muscle that caused him to miss half of the season. Ville Leino hasn't played center in the league before, but it was the natural position that he played before he joined the Flyers. 

In my humble opinion, Derek Roy should get the top spot as the Sabres center just for the fact that he is the veteran of the two. The difference between the first and second lines on this team isn't going to be great so the two can be seen as interchangeable but Roy has been apart of this team for seven seasons and that has to count for something with Lindy Ruff.

The major question mark is whether Roy can continue the point per game pace he had before he was injured last season. He was one of the lone bright spots of the first half of the season and whether he and the rest of the team can continue that pace as the season starts is yet to be seen. 

First Line Left Wing

Thomas Vanek has been paired with Derek Roy for most of Vanek's career. In 2009, Vanek spent 25% of his even strength time with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford and in 2008 that combination contributed for 22% of Vanek's even strength time. It may be time to split that line up to see if there could be more production out of both Roy and Vanek.

Even though Vanek and Roy have been stuck together for a while, it still makes sense to keep Vanek on the top line and move Drew Stafford off that line. Vanek is still the Sabres' top goal scorer and still needs to have the designation of being on that top line

First Line Right Wing

Drew Stafford is in the same situation with Derek Roy as Thomas Vanek was over the course of his career. In 2009, 29% of his even strength time in 2009 was with Roy and Vanek and in 2008 that was 23%. For me, it makes sense to split that stalwart line up to start the season and if Stafford is going to be replaced on the first line, the most sensible replacement for him would be Jason Pominville if he is healthy to start the season. 

To summarize, I would feel comfortable with a top line of Thomas Vanek/Derek Roy/Jason Pominville. 

Voting Process

The voting process will be simple, just list your thoughts for the top line in the comments and we'll tally up who the community thinks the first line should be for the Sabres. 

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