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Numbers Game: Leino joins new-look Sabres

Scott Cullen
7/3/2011 1:28:23 AM
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Times are a changing in Buffalo, and the Sabres continued their aggressive offseason by signing a scoring forward to a six-year deal.

Numbers Game looks at the Ville Leino signing.

The Sabres Get: LW Ville Leino.

Leino, 27, followed up an impressive 2010 playoff run (during which he scored 21 points in 19 games) with a breakthrough season for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010-2011, scoring 53 points.

Skating on a line with Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell, Leino tended to have favourable matchups, playing with linemates that were frequently more skilled than their opposition.

While Leino's results were positive, there will be some factors to take into consideration as he moves to the Sabres.

First off, the plan appears to be for Leino to shift from left wing to centre. Leino had played centre in Finland, but has primarily been a winger in the NHL, so there will be some adjustment as he gets used to the responsibilities associated with playing the middle.

It's at least a little encouraging that he won 57.4% of the 136 faceoffs he took for the Flyers last season and Leino's playmaking skills should serve him well at centre.

Another factor to consider about Leino's game is that he scored his 19 goals on just 117 shots, a 16.2% shooting percentage. Having the 14th-best shooting percentage can be a positive but, considering previous production, it may be tough for Leino to keep scoring on such a high percentage.

If he is going to maintain his goal-scoring pace, though, Leino could easily register more shots on goal than he was getting in Philadelphia. As Leino recorded just 1.44 shots on goal per game, there were only two players in the league who had as many goals with fewer shots on goal per game -- Phoenix's Lauri Korpikoski and Nashville's Sergei Kostitsyn.

Though Leino is leaving a talented Flyers team, the Sabres club that he is joining is loaded too, with a deep crop of scoring forwards that should ensure that Leino ends up with capable offensive wingers, so it seems fair to expect Leino to fall within range of last season's totals in Philadelphia, say 45-55 points, which would make Leino a relative upgrade on Tim Connolly, whom he's effectively replacing in the Sabres' lineup.

The Flyers have added wingers Jakub Voracek, Jaromir Jagr and Wayne Simmonds this offseason, so they will have some mixing-and-matching to do in order to replace Leino in the lineup.

Signed for six years and $27-million, Leino is really capitalizing on 100-game stretch of hockey, so there is some risk that he may not fit as well with new linemates in Buffalo as he did with Briere and Hartnell in Philadelphia but, at his age, he should be able to produce a handful of quality seasons during which he provides secondary offence.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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