Coming into the season, for all the unanswered questions surrounding the Portland Pirates, there was one position that certainly didn’t need to be questioned.
The goaltending tandem of Jhonas Enroth and David Leggio.
Now, it’s even more secure after the Buffalo Sabres announced they’ve signed Leggio to a two-way NHL contract on Thursday.
Leggio entered the season on an American Hockey League contract, and has been the better of the two goalkeepers so far to date. In eight games, Leggio is 7-0-1 with a 2.71GAA and a .917 save percentage.
Still, he was caught off guard by the offer.
“It was something that I was hoping that would happen during the season, but I don’t think I expected it to happen this fast, or maybe, even this year,” Leggio said.
Leggio spent last season in Finland with TPS Turku of the SM Liiga – Finland’s top league – where he went 5-2-0 during the playoff run with a 1.58 GAA and .942 save percentage to win that league’s championship.
For the Williamsville native, entering this season, he was looking to get back to North American and making another run at getting to the NHL. Being a long time fan of the Sabres, signing a deal with their AHL farm team in Portland made the decision to even easier.
“I was pleased to get the offer. It was a goal to get an NHL contract. To be a part of the Sabres organization, a team I grew up watching, it was a real honor so I hope I can make the best of the opportunity.”
“If I keep playing the way I’ve been playing… good things will come.”
Leggio also knew that coming into the season, playing time would be sparse with Sabres top goaltending prospect Jhonas Enroth getting the majority of the playing time.
But, what appear to be customary were Enroth’s early season struggles, allowing Leggio some valuable playing time in net.
It’s didn’t hurt that Enroth was recalled to the Sabres.
“It was good to get into that groove and play of a lot of minutes,” Leggio said. “We got a lot of points out of those games. Hopefully, I’ll continue to get some time.”
The call up to Buffalo couldn’t have come at a better time for Enroth.
The 22-year old began the season winning his first four games, but struggled losing his last two starts and was on his way to third straight in Norfolk, VA before being yanked by Pirates coach Kevin Dineen.
The Pirates would come back to win in a shootout.
Enroth was recalled by the Sabres on Nov. 2 and his first game was against the Boston Bruins where he didn’t fare much better, allowing three goals in the first period, including two shorthanded goals before being replaced by Patrick Lalime.
Still, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff used Enroth in three more starts where he went 2-0-1 before being sent back to Portland on Friday.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I played more than I thought I was going to play. I’m glad I got the games and that they trusted me, especially giving me another chance after that Boston game.”
Enroth left the Pirates somewhat dejected, but the time with the Sabres has given him some of the confidence he had lost, and looking to right the ship in Portland.
“It’s a real confidence boost when you play a couple games (in Buffalo) and playing well,” Enroth said. “My confidence is probably higher now than before I left.”
Enroth will get that chance on Saturday night when the Albany Devils come to town.
NOTES: Dennis Persson appears to out for a third straight game as he was the last one off the ice in the team’s morning skate. Dineen has indicated on Wednesday that the Swedish defenseman was dealing with some dings and bruises and was listed day-to-day… With the return of Enroth from the Sabres, the Pirates released Alex Petizian from his PTO.