After an hour-long practice at First Niagara Center, the Sabres huddled up at center ice. It looked like practice was about to wrap up, but then rookie defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen stood up, skated to the middle of the circle and started dancing.
When he went to back to take a knee, rookie center Johan Larsson skated in and took a turn, receiving stick taps from his teammates.
“Sometimes you just have to add something that loosens things up,” goaltender Ryan Miller said after practice. “Everybody can recognize it’s a little tense here, so it’s a fun chance to embarrass the rookies. At any turn, we’re going to take advantage of that. You only get one crack at them when they’re rookies, so you’ve gotta do it.”
WATCH: ROOKIE DANCE-OFF
The Sabres are 1-7-1 this season and coming off a 3-0 shutout loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. Co-captain Steve Ott said that having moments like that after practice are important, especially for the younger players.
“The ups and downs are what you try to get out of your game. Obviously around here anytime you’re losing or not having success, it’s hard times,” he said. “You need things to kind of pick your spirits up and we have so many young guys in this dressing room that we try to continue to keep the mood light.”
So which rookie had the best dance routine? Tyler Ennis’ vote went to Girgensons.
“He was a doing a little Miley Cyrus it looked like on skates,” Ennis said. “So that might be the first time that’s ever been done.”
WATCH: GIRGENSONS' DANCE
During practice, the Sabres focused on breakouts and moving the puck up the ice quickly. Keeping the puck out of their defensive zone will be a challenge against the next opponent, the Colorado Avalanche. Buffalo hosts Colorado on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Avalanche are tied for sixth in the League with 23 goals for.
TICKETS FOR SATURDAY VS. COLORADO
“It’s early in the season, but the changes have to be made and we made a little tweak on the neutral zone [entries] today,” Ennis said. “That’s hopefully going to get us a little bit more speed through the neutral zone.”
Cody McCormick did not skate and Sabres coach Ron Rolston said he was day-to-day. McCormick blocked a Jason Garrison slap shot during the game against the Canucks and was still feeling the effects of it.
Girgensons was a full-participant in practice after missing the game on Thursday. A puck deflected up and hit him near his left eye on Tuesday and stitches were required to repair the wound.
Swelling on the eye had come noticeably down by the time of practice on Friday. Rolston said Girgensons should be ready to go against the Avalanche on Saturday.
WATCH: RYAN MILLER INTERVIEW
Zadorov practiced with the team as he recovers from a lacerated finger he sustained in the preseason. Rolston said they would like to use the 18-year-old Russian defenseman in a game before making the decision to send him back to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League or not.
As for when that first NHL game might come for Zadorov, Rolston said “anytime is possible for him.”
On Thursday, before a home game against the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth participated in a #SabresTwitterview on the official Sabres Twitter account.
The #SabresTwitterview is a weekly interview with Sabres players answering fan questions on Twitter. You can find last week's Twitterview with Cody Hodgson here.
Read Enroth's responses below:
Probably the 1st tournament I played in, and we actually won. I think the final was 16-1. Probably my 1st memory as a kid. -JE #AskJhonas— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 17, 2013
Just attention to details, I think. Don't leave anything up for granted, and work hard. -JE #AskJhonas— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 17, 2013
I guess it's more of a reflex now, but I put all my equipment on my right side first, and I tap the post a certain way. -JE #AskJhonas— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 17, 2013
A lot, especially preparing for games & practices. What really got me when I came up here was seeing Ryan work hard during practice too. -JE— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 17, 2013
Really good. Ristolainen is already playing like a veteran. All the other guys are young too and playing very good. -JE #AskJhonas— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 17, 2013
I'm trying to stay alert & still have a good focus during the game. Trying to see how opposing players like to shoot & where. -JE #AskJhonas— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 17, 2013
Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta faces a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday.
Under review is a play that occurred Thursday night in which Kaleta hit Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson along the boards inside the Buffalo zone at 3:10 of the first period. No penalty was assessed for the hit, but Kaleta dropped the gloves with Jared Boll immediately after and received a fighting major.
Kaleta did not practice with the team at First Niagara Center, but Sabres coach Ron Rolston said that was more because of an injury. After the fight, Kaleta played much of the game on Thursday with a full face shield.
Rolston said Kaleta had a “couple loose Chiclets and things like that to be cleaned up.” Kaleta would have been healthy enough to play against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
A pending suspension would obviously make him unavailable.
“The League’s going to take care of that. It was a hit and they’re concerned with it so they’ll take a look at it and go from there,” Rolston said. “So he will have a hearing and see what comes of it.
Cody Hodgson also did not participate. The coaching staff gave him a maintenance day and Rolston said there’s no concern about Hodgson’s lower-body injury becoming a lingering one.
Henrik Tallinder skated in a red non-contact jersey and he will not be available Saturday.
“He’s starting to shoot a little more. We know it was going to be each day evaluating what he can do and now he’s able to do some more shooting and stuff so I’d imagine Monday he’ll be back in there [against Minnesota],” Rolston said.
The Sabres did not practice any line drills Friday, but some of the defensive pairings were flipped. Alexander Sulzer was paired with Tyler Myers for much of the session. Christian Ehrhoff worked with Mark Pysyk, Jamie McBain skated with Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov and Mike Weber were a tandem.
Sulzer may see game action soon. He was recalled on Saturday from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League after Tallinder sustained his injury and has yet to make his season debut.
“We’ll see. He’s practiced real well,” Rolston said of Sulzer. “I mean, he’s one of the best puck movers we have, passers, so [it’s] quite possible.
Forwards: 8 Cody McCormick, 9 Steve Ott, 12 Kevin Porter, 21 Drew Stafford, 22 Johan Larsson, 25 Mikhail Grigorenko, 26 Thomas Vanek, 28 Zemgus Girgensons, 32 John Scott, 63 Tyler Ennis, 65 Brian Flynn, 82 Marcus Foligno.
Injured: 20 Henrik Tallinder
Cody Hodgson participated in this season's first Twitterview, which you can read below.
So much. His ability to create plays and to find openings on the ice is uncanny. He's always open. -CH #AskCody— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 9, 2013
Pretty much what they make at the rink. Carol's a good cook. I stick to chicken, brown rice, and some pasta sauce with a salad. -CH #AskCody— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 9, 2013
I wear the #19 because I was a big Stevie Yzerman fan growing up. Someone I always looked up to on and off the ice. -CH #AskCody— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 9, 2013
Whatever's on in the room. I'm not too picky. I like country music, rock music, Christian music…I like everything. -CH #AskCody— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 9, 2013
No. I'm not superstitious at all. -CH #AskCody— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 9, 2013
Ryan Miller was back on the ice as a full participant in practice Wednesday morning at First Niagara Center.
The Buffalo Sabres goaltender did not dress against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday and served as the backup on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning due to a lower-body injury. Jhonas Enroth started in his place, going 0-1-1 with a .912 save percentage and a 2.95 goals against average.
Miller took part in the morning skate on Tuesday, but Wednesday marked his first practice with the team since sustaining the injury.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after practice that Miller is healthy and available to play when the Sabres host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
Miller told reporters that he that he feels good and hopes he can pick up where he left off before the injury. In his two starts this season, Miller stopped 77 of 80 shots.
“I knew it was pretty minor. I was just being cautious. Jhonas was going to play in Pittsburgh anyways so I just took that opportunity to rest completely and guarantee some rest,” Miller said. “It just lingered a little longer and I wanted to make sure I clear up any issues because if you don’t take care of it the right way, it turns into weeks. Now we’re in a case where I only really missed one game in the schedule. Hopefully I get back in the rhythm where I was at and I’ll go again.”
Cody Hodgson was given another maintenance day and did not skate. Rolston said on Monday that Hodgson is day-to-day with a lower body. Hodgson played against Tampa Bay on Tuesday despite not practicing on Monday and scored his first goal of the season. Rolston said he’ll be in the lineup on Thursday against Columbus.
With Hodgson’s absence from practice, Mikhail Grigorenko centered the top line with co-captains Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott. Grigorenko bounced around on a few lines against the Lightning and played 8:07 in the game.
Rolston had commented last week that Girgorenko’s compete level was getting closer to where the coaching staff would like it to be. He reiterated that on Tuesday.
“It’s getting there, but it needs to continue to improve, I think,” Rolston said. “That’s that last hurdle for him and that’s something that he’s got to work on.”
The Sabres have quite a few options at the center position and it’s likely the lineup will change based on the opponent.
Tyler Ennis remains in the middle and practiced with wings Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno. On the third line at practice, Johan Larsson served as the pivot for Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Flynn. Larsson was a healthy scratch last game. Kevin Porter and Cody McCormick rotated a bit down the middle on the fourth line alongside John Scott and Patrick Kaleta.
“Right now it’s just building up what we feel center-wise will be good matchup situations,” Rolston said. “You go into last night [against Tampa Bay], you’ve got [Steven] Stamkos, [Valtteri] Filppula and Tyler Johnson, who was the American Hockey League Most Valuable Player as their three centers. We were trying to make some adjustments there and moving [Ennis] to center helps us a bit there to be a little stronger in that spot.”
Rolston gave no indication as to which players might be out of the lineup against Columbus.
One player that could possibly play on Thursday is rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov. He practiced with the team for the first time since cutting his finger while blocking a shot in the team’s final preseason game on Sept. 27.
Zadorov is eligible to go back to juniors, but Rolston said there’s a possibility they could keep him in Buffalo a little while longer.
“He would be available if we wanted to keep him here. We have to make that decision,” he said.
Henrik Tallinder could be back for the team’s game in Chicago on Saturday, according to Rolston. Tallinder sustained an upper-body injury in the home opener on Friday. Rolston said he’s been skating in the mornings but he has yet to put in a practice with the team.
26 Thomas Vanek – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 9 Steve Ott
82 Marcus Foligno – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 12 Kevin Porter / 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
Foligno has yet to play this season after sustaining an upper-body injury on Sept. 22 in an exhibition game against Toronto. He was a full participant in practice at First Niagara Center on Monday.
“This is a time to really establish myself and help out the team and hopefully tomorrow’s a big game for myself and for the team,” Foligno said after practice. “We need to get it back on track here and we really can’t let games slide.”
Miller did not dress in the loss on Saturday in Pittsburgh due to a lower-body injury. He did not practice on Monday and Rolston wasn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Tuesday. His status will depend on his on-ice workouts leading up to the game.
“We’re going to see. He’s going to let us know where he’s at and we’ve got pregame skate tomorrow too,” Rolston said. “He’s close. It’s just how he’s moving out there.”
Cody Hodgson also did not skate. Rolston said he has a lower-body injury, but doesn’t expect him to miss any more time.
“Cody is just kind of day to day, basically. Today was kind of a maintenance [day] for him,” Rolston said. “He should be back in there tomorrow.”
The Sabres focused on passing drills and power-play work at practice. Buffalo is 0-for-13 with the man advantage through three games and Rolston wants to see his team get more pucks to the net. He said he liked what he saw from the power play in practice on Monday.
“It’s hockey school stuff, but we need to get better with our hands right now,” Rolston said. “A portion of our problems, even in our zone, is just making a pass and catching a pass to get out of the zone. That’s part of it and that’s why we worked on [the passing drills].”
26 Thomas Vanek – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
82 Marcus Foligno – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 12 Kevin Porter – 65 Brian Flynn
22 Johan Larsson – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
What’s another rookie in the lineup?
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after practice at First Niagara Center on Thursday that Ville Leino is out indefinitely with a cracked rib and that rookie Johan Larsson will step in to pivot the team’s second line Friday night in the home opener against Ottawa.
Leino sustained the injury early on in the team’s 2-1 loss in Detroit on Wednesday. He did not skate with the team on Thursday.
“It happened in the first period, probably about three or four shifts in,” Rolston said. “It was just sore and obviously overnight, it seized up and had it checked.”
Tyler Ennis will slide over to the wing to make room for Larsson. Steve Ott will be on the other side. Larsson was a healthy scratch against Detroit and Rolston said he’s very excited to see what the young center can do.
“He’s got a good opportunity. I like everything about him. I like his attitude, the way we works, his preparation,” Rolston said. “He’s a good detail player, but this will give him a good opportunity to play with some good players and show us what we can do.”
Larsson, acquired as part of the package from the Minnesota Wild at the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline for Jason Pominville, has played in only one NHL game. He’ll join Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen and Brian Flynn as players in the lineup with less than 30 NHL games played.
“[Larsson is] another young guy in the lineup and I think it’s a good thing because I think he’s ready and now it’s just gaining those experiences in the League like our younger players did last night,” Rolston said. “He needs to be put into game situations and get in there.”
Marcus Foligno was a participant in practice for the first time since straining his upper-body in an exhibition on Sept. 22. Still wearing a red non-contact jersey, he was able to work out in some drills with the team.
He said there’s a slim chance he’ll be able to play this weekend against Ottawa on Friday and in Pittsburgh on Saturday. It’s more likely he’ll be ready by the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Rolston agreed with that assessment.
“Being able to shoot and stickhandle and kind of get power on your shot is good. Right now, I’m day-to-day. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” he said.
Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Brian Flynn, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Cody Hodgson, Patrick Kaleta, Johan Larsson, Cody McCormick, Steve Ott, Kevin Porter, John Scott, Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek
Buffalo Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after practice Tuesday at First Niagara Center that forward Marcus Foligno will not play in the team's season opener against Detroit.
Foligno sustained an upper-body strain in a preseason game on Sept. 22 against Toronto and has not participated in a full practice since. He's worked with the team's power play units the last few days before the rest of the team has taken the ice but has done so while sporting a red non-contact jersey.
He may miss the games over the weekend against Ottawa on Friday and in Pittsburgh on Saturday as well.
Here's what Rolston had to say on Folgino's status:
"He’s been skating. We’ve been trying him every morning, so I don’t know. It would be hard now. Possibly on the weekend, but it’s not a for-sure thing.
"He’s been going out in the morning and trying it and it’s just not where it needs to be to put him in that situation where if he gets bumped or anything like that to set him back further. So we want him back in the lineup, but we want to make sure that when he’s back, he’s healthy and we don’t put him in any situation where he could further injure something."
It looks like the roster is set.
Each team’s 23-man roster must be submitted to the NHL by 5 p.m. on Monday and the Buffalo Sabres do not plan on making any more moves by then.
Buffalo assigned forward Luke Adam and defenseman Alexander Sulzer to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Monday after both players cleared waivers. In addition to that, injuries have played their part in shaping the initial roster.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after practice Monday at First Niagara Center that forward Marcus Foligno will likely be unavailable for the season opener in Detroit on Wednesday. Rolston had previously hoped Foligno would be able to play in the game, but after missing practice on Monday, that scenario seems more and more unlikely.
“I don’t see it Wednesday. I think he’ll probably be in a position tomorrow to practice, but I don’t think one day is going to help in terms of being ready,” Rolston said.
That means three first-round picks from the past two drafts will be in the lineup against the Red Wings. Center Mikhail Grigorenko (12th overall, 2012) and left wing Zemgus Girgensons (14th overall, 2012) skated Monday with Brian Flynn; defenseman Rasmus RIstolainen (eighth overall, 2013) was paired with Mike Weber.
While Girgensons may be on the roster now, he’s only looking ahead to how he can stick once the team starts to get healthier.
“For me and for any young guy in this locker room, I don’t think there’s such a thing as ‘made it so far.’ I think for the young guys, you have to make it every day,” he said. “You have to make every day count and you have to prove yourself every day to stay up here because any young guy can be sent down at any time.”
Grigorenko is the only Sabres player to have played in all seven preseason games. For Rolston and the coaching staff, being able to evaluate him for that period of time – especially since he did not play in the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich. earlier this month like Girgensons, Ristolainen and Johan Larsson did – was important.
“[Grigorenko’s] progress is there. It’s a process with those young guys. It’s going to be a process,” Rolston said. “But I’ve seen the off-ice maturity. I’ve seen some on-ice maturity. His compete’s getting better. It’s not where we want it to be, but it’s getting better and that’s going to be a process. But he has made strides.”
Ristolainen has not only impressed the coaching staff, but some of the veteran players on the roster as well. Weber said that Ristolainen’s someone Sabres fans should be excited about.
“He’s a solid defender. He plays beyond his years. He’s an 18-year-old man-child so it’s exciting to play with him,” Weber said. “I’m really, really happy about it and hopefully we can keep the same chemistry that we had in preseason going right through the regular season here.”
When asked about those recent draft picks, Rolston was also quick to point out the work of center Johan Larsson, whom the Sabres acquired from the Minnesota Wild at this year’s trade deadline for Jason Pominville.
“They’re here and Johan’s here and I think you could argue he might’ve been the best of all those guys in terms of competitive nature in camp,” Rolston said. “We’ve got some good young players there. Again, now it’s for us finding the mix that’s going to help us move into the future but also be able to have results too. There’s a balance there and along with that, the development part of things – how they’re developing and moving forward.”
Larsson has skated as the extra forward during the past two practices.
Mark Pysyk (16th overall, 2010) is another first-rounder who will start the season in Buffalo for the first time. He played 19 games for the Sabres last year. He’s recently been practicing with Christian Ehrhoff and has also seen time with the second power play unit, which has featured Ristolainen, Grigorenko, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford and Ville Leino.
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 63 Tyler Ennis – 23 Ville Leino
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 65 Brian Flynn
12 Kevin Porter – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
22 Johan Larsson – 32 John Scott
The Buffalo Sabres coaching staff has some tough decisions to make in the next few days. They’ll set the 23-man roster for the regular season by Monday.
One spot on the defense looks like it’ll go to rookie Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo’s top draft pick this year (eighth overall). The 18-year-old from Finland played in five of the team’s seven preseason games, logging at least 19 minutes of ice time in all but one.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston was asked after practice Saturday morning if Ristolainen had done enough to make the team.
“I would say, yeah. He was probably one of our better defensemen last night [against the Carolina Hurricanes],” Rolston said.
Injuries have already cropped up, sidelining four Sabres so far and muddling some of the roster decisions.
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov injured his hand in the team’s preseason finale in Carolina on Friday. Rolston said on Saturday that the team’s other first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft (16th overall) needed stitches to repair a cut on his left hand. He’ll miss approximately two weeks.
The team is currently carrying nine defensemen. The Sabres do not have to keep Zadorov while he is injured and could send him back to juniors. However, Rolston said there might be value in having him continue to work with an NHL team.
“We don’t have to keep him. Will we keep him? We have to discuss that,” Rolston said. “It’s two weeks. We could have him here and he could be working out on the ice because it’s not obviously lower body, so we still have to determine that.”
Marcus Foligno is still expected to recover from an upper-body strain he sustained in Toronto on Sunday in time for the team’s season opener in Detroit on Wednesday.
Rolston said that Armia, who broke his hand in the exhibition game against Columbus last Wednesday, has his hand in a cast and that surgery was not required.
The center position is still one that’s pretty wide open for the Sabres. Cody Hodgson is locked in on the top line with left wing Thomas Vanek. Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko played all seven preseason games in the middle albeit with a wide variety of linemates. Cody McCormick has pivoted the fourth line for the past few exhibition games.
Tyler Ennis, who started training camp at left wing moved back to center last Sunday and has been playing there ever since. Rolston, however, wouldn’t totally commit to sticking with Ennis in the middle and that the coaching staff is still evaluating the position.
“He could be. I mean right now, I would say probably, but you never know. Yes, right now,” Rolston said.
Johan Larsson is another center hoping to make the team. He did not play in Carolina on Friday and according to Rolston, that’s why he did not skate on a line Saturday morning. He was working on the fourth line with John Scott and Patrick Kaleta earlier in the week, but has seen both practice time and game action with most of the wings on the roster.
“He didn’t play last night so he wasn’t on a line,” Rolston said on Saturday. “And those are guys we have to decide who’s on the roster. And he’s fighting for a spot.”
Kevin Porter, typically a center, has played some left wing recently. He skated in Carolina with McCormick and Kaleta. It’s another spot that will require a decision by the coaching staff.
“I think [Porter’s] camp got better as it went on. It was a little slow to start with but I’ve liked how it finished,” Rolston said. “He’s a competitor. He’s a smart player. He’ll give you everything he’s got. We moved over on the wing last night and he offers speed to our team and allows Cody some more looks in the middle and see where that’s at.”
Rolston confirmed that forward Luke Adam has been sent down to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League pending waivers.
Adam did not make the trip to play in the team’s last preseason game in Carolina and was not at practice on Saturday.
“He’ll have a chance to continue to work on his game and continue to chase his dreams of playing here,” Rolston said Friday morning. “He has the potential, but just where we’re at right now, there were some guys in front of him, especially with the youth that we have.”
Rolston also said that he expects to name a full-time captain sometime this week before the season opener. He rotated the “C” throughout the preseason. Thomas Vanek, Christian Ehrhoff and Steve Ott have each worn it twice.
Ott most recently served as captain on Friday with Vanek and Ehrhoff wearing the “A’s”. Cody Hodgson had the opportunity to captain the game last Sunday against Toronto.
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 63 Tyler Ennis – 23 Ville Leino
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 65 Brian Flynn
12 Kevin Porter / 32 John Scott – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
22 Johan Larsson