SAN JOSE – The Buffalo Sabres are aware that they face a tough test against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
San Jose is 10-1-3 on the season and 5-0-1 at home. Seven players have 10 or more points, including their top three centers, Joe Thornton (1+13), Joe Pavelski (6+10) and Logan Couture (7+9). The Sabres know they won’t be able to take a shift off and will have to be ready from puck drop, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. in Buffalo).
“We have to come out as a team and play like a team for 60 minutes. If we don’t do that, it’s going to be a long night for us,” Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said after the morning skate at SAP Center.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said that through 16 games, Buffalo really hasn’t faced a team like the Sharks yet.
“This is the deepest lineup we’ll face. Early on in the season, we’ve played a lot of teams that have had two superstars up the middle, but this team’s got three,” Rolston said. “They’ve got three centers and three lines, really, that could be the first line on any team in the League. Every night is a challenge for a lot of these young players and tonight’ll be another one, especially on the road here.”
Buffalo will look to take some of the lessons they learned after a physical practice on Monday into the game Tuesday. Sabres captain Steve Ott said it starts with hard work.
“They have strong depth and if you’re not showing up and working, challenging their top guys to compete then it can go the other way in a hurry,” he said. For us, we have to play that way, we have to be physical, we have to compete for us to be successful tonight.”
Marcus Foligno might have been on the outside looking in at the lineup. After a few admittedly tough games, he started practice on Monday as the extra skater in line rushes, but did enough throughout the rest of the workout to convince the coaches he should be on the ice against the Sharks.
Foligno will center a line with Ott on the left and Corey Tropp on the right. He’s looking forward to facing off against San Jose’s talented centers.
“It goes with moving the feet. They’ve got big guys. They don’t want to play in their zone, that’s for sure. We need to make sure we’re bringing it right back at them,” he said. “We gotta make sure our big guys are playing like big guys and the smaller guys are moving their feet and making plays on their big guys. For myself, it’s going to be a good test.”
Rolston looks forward to a bounce-back game from Foligno as well.
“He’s got a lot of character. I think he’s a future leader for us and he’s a player that takes a lot of pride in his game,” Rolston said. “He knows where he’s at right now or where his last couple games have been and it is up to him at that point to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been given, which is quite a bit for us. I expect him to bounce back tonight.”
Sabres captain Steve Ott played with the Dallas Stars for nine seasons. While in the Western Conference, he found himself in the Shark Tank often and said that it’s a fun building to play in.
“It starts with the building, the energy. It’s an easy energy boost when you have fan support like they do and you come in and you’re playing a villain role or the spoiler role,” he said. “That’s probably the best part of it. And also, they’ve always had good teams. They’ve had great players and personally, I love competing against good players and trying to play hard against them.”
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice for the morning skate and is expected to start in goal. Rookies Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov stayed on the ice after practice with suspended forward John Scott, so they are likely the scratches.
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 63 Tyler Ennis
9 Steve Ott – 82 Marcus Foligno – 78 Corey Tropp
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson – 65 Brian Flynn
23 Ville Leino – 8 Cody McCormick – 21 Drew Stafford
The Sabres are expected to activate Tropp from the non-roster injured list prior to their game Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m. To make room for him on the 23-man roster, a move had to be made.
At noon, Buffalo announced that Kaleta had been placed on waivers.
The game against the Ducks would have been Kaleta's first since serving a 10-game suspension by the NHL for an illegal check to the head of Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson on Oct. 10.
He did not participate in the optional morning skate.
“This was a move we thought was necessary to help Pat change his game and preserve his career in this league,” Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said in a statement. “We believe in Pat as a person and we hope he will continue his career in our organization and, if the circumstances are right, with the Buffalo Sabres.”
“We’ve been preaching hard work here and we need to bring it into a game from the opening puck drop. Work hard and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, obviously it’s been a long layoff [for me],” he said. “They’re going to happen. This game’s a game of mistakes. But it’s what you do after you make a mistake. Are you going to sit there and watch it or work your way back and try to get the puck back? It’s just the little stuff for our line. Let’s be one of the hardest working lines on the ice.”
It will be the third time this season that Grigorenko has been scratched. Sabres coach Ron Rolston has moved some of the younger players in and out of the lineup over the past few weeks. Rookie defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov have also watched a few games from the press box.
With McBain out, Zadorov would be back on the ice against Anaheim.
“I think you’re going to see that from a lot of our younger guys. They’ll probably be in at times and out at times, just like Risto was and Big Z was,” Rolston said. “I think you’re going to see that where they come out, get some perspective, go back in. It’s a part of the development process for some of those younger players.”
Jhonas Enroth was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to start in goal.
John Scott said he does not plan to appeal the seven-game suspension handed down on him by the League for an illegal hit to the head of Boston’s Loui Eriksson on Oct. 23.
“I’m just going to kind of stick with what the League gave me and move on from there,” Scott said. “Hopefully the issue will die and we can move on from it.”
Scott said that he understands the League wants to get those types of hits out of the game and said he had a good, frank conversation with Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s Senior Vice President of Player Safety.
“I just have to be, I guess, a little more responsible with my approach on hits and err on the side of caution from now on,” Scott said. “I just gotta be a little more responsible and really pay attention to how the other player’s head lines up and if he’s vulnerable in any way.”
Since he’s 6-foot-8, Scott realizes that most times, the players he hits could be in dangerous positions. It’s something he said he’ll be mindful of from now on.
“Being a big guy, you always kind of worry about it, but it’s not something I go out there and pay attention to,” he said. “I’m just playing my game. I don’t think I’m a dirty hitter, so it’s something I’ve dealt with in my career, but obviously going forward, it’s something I’ll think about.”
The Ducks are set to play their seventh game of an eight-game road trip. They’re 3-2-1 when playing out east so far. This will be their first game in Buffalo since Dec. 21, 2010.
Rolston doesn’t expect to see a fatigued team lining up against his squad on Saturday.
“It’s part of the League I think in terms of the road trips and we’re going on one starting tomorrow. We expect them to be very good,” Rolston said. “They’re a good team, a real good team. Got a lot of dynamics to them. They’re big, they’re fast. They have a lot of talent. They’ve been playing well so they’ll be good.”
NEW YORK – After practice on Wednesday in Buffalo, Sabres coach Rolston talked about how the younger players on the team, including the four teenagers, will need to work harder to become more consistent both in practice and in games.
Part of learning how to deal with playing a full season in the NHL – and playing well – means occasionally taking a night to watch the game from the press box as a healthy scratch.
That’ll be the case for 18-year-old rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov for the team’s game against the New York Rangers on Thursday at 7 p.m. Jamie McBain will take his place in the lineup and will likely play the left side on a pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen.
Zadorov is in a different position than the other six rookies on the team. The Sabres can return him to his junior club, the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, without using up a year on his contract as long as he does not play in more than nine games with Buffalo.
“He needs to better. A lot of aspects. A lot of his details right now [in] practice and game situations,” Rolston said after practice Thursday at Madison Square Garden. “He needs to get some perspective. With all our players, especially our young guys, we don’t want guys getting comfortable.”
Ristolainen, Buffalo’s other 2013 first-round pick, has been a healthy scratch in two games this season and did not dress for a third as he was assigned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League at the time. Rolston said that he’s seen improvement from Ristolainen in the three games since he was last scratched.
“I thought when Rasmus was out of the lineup, he came back and played well. He was refocused on what he needed to do and wasn’t taking things for granted. I think it’ll be the same with Nikita,” Rolston said.
In Ristolainen’s first game back in the lineup, he scored his first NHL goal.
“I think for him, it was good to get out and watch things from upstairs and just understand his position a little better and understand how he can keep thing simple, where he needed to improve defensively but just keeping the game simpler,” Rolston said. “I think he’s done a better job with that and he’s been better in some of the areas that we’ve been working with him on with his defensive stick and net-front situations that he’s been in. But we like where he’s going.”
The coaching staff has a few decisions to make in the next few days regarding the roster.
Right wing Patrick Kaleta is set to come back on Saturday against Anaheim, having served his 10-game suspension by the League. Rolston also said that forward Corey Tropp will likely be ready Saturday as well. He’s been on the non-roster injured reserve since breaking his jaw in a fight during the preseason. Tropp skated with the team at MSG.
Putting Tropp in the lineup would require the team to make a move to satisfy the 23-man roster limit.
“It should push everybody because we’ve got some decisions to make here coming up,” Rolston said. “You’ve got players like Corey [Tropp] coming back and Patty Kaleta’s suspension’s up on Saturday. Everybody should feel that.”
The Sabres did not do any line rushes during the morning skate but the forward combinations will likely look similar to what they have been in practice this week. Rolston confirmed that Mikhail Grigorenko will be back in the middle, centering Zemgus Girgensons and right wing Brian Flynn.
That would put Johan Larsson on the fourth line with center Cody McCormick and right wing Drew Stafford. Ville Leino had been practicing on the right side with center Marcus Foligno and left wing Steve Ott. New addition Matt Moulson would then again be on the top line with center Cody Hodgson and right wing Tyler Ennis.
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to start in goal.
John Scott did not skate with the team. He was set to have an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit he made on Loui Eriksson of the Boston Bruins on Oct. 23. The in-person hearing allows the League to suspend him for at least five games. He’s missed three already.
Lindy Ruff is used to setting up shop inside the Buffalo Sabres locker room. However, he’ll be across the hall Monday night, preparing for the game with his new team, the visiting Dallas Stars.
Ruff earned 571 wins in 1,165 games behind the Sabres bench before being relieved of his duties 17 games into the 2012-13 season. He signed on with Dallas over the summer and added former Sabres assistant coach James Patrick to his staff.
The Sabres host the Stars at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m. in Ruff’s first game back in Buffalo since being replaced by Ron Rolston. The game can be seen on MSG in the U.S. and on Bell TV in Canada. It can also be heard live on WGR 550.
Ruff said he still wants to see Buffalo succeed – on most nights, that is.
“Not tonight, I can’t root,” he said with a laugh. “I can root in-between games and they’re in the East. I root for the city and I root for the team. I want to see them do well.”
The Sabres are going with a youth movement and have dressed four teenagers, all first-round picks, the past four games. The Sabres have seven rookies in the lineup at the moment and at 2-10-1, sit in last place in the Atlantic Division.
“It’s tough to see where the team is at in the standings, but I watch how these players play and how some of the young players play and I think there’s a lot of promise there,” Ruff said. “I know it is really tough, but I understand where they’re at.”
As to how he thinks he’ll received by fans during the game?
“I have nothing but good memories. I think it’ll be a warm reception and I know we need to win a game,” he said. “We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs this year, too, as a team.”
“I traded texts with Thomas last night and wished him well. Again, it’s a funny feeling when you’re seeing your ex-players that you’ve been around a long time and seeing Ryan for a long time,” he said. “It’s great to see, and in some ways, it just feels awkward.”
The Sabres are adjusting to the sudden trade of Vanek, their co-captain, and the arrival of Matt Moulson from the New York Islanders.
Rolston said that Ruff, like Vanek, was a dedicated member of the organization. Ruff also played for the Sabres from 1979 to 1989 and served as captain.
“[He] put a lot into the organization, had great success here and we certainly welcome him back and it’ll be good to see him,” Rolston said. “[I] saw him a little bit in the hallway, but I’m glad they’re doing well in Dallas and he found a spot. [He] and James are terrific people and we wish them all the success.”
The Sabres did not do any line rushes in their morning skate, but Rolston said the only change in the lineup will be Moulson in for Vanek. That would mean defenseman Jamie McBain would be the team’s only healthy scratch for the second straight game.
SUNRISE, FLA. -- A lingering injury combined with a pair of suspensions will force the Buffalo Sabres to dress only 11 forwards and seven defensemen for tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers.
Henrik Tallinder will be the lone scratch on the blueline, and Jamie McBain will return after being a healthy scratch in Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Boston. Following a two-game absence with a leg injury, forward Cody McCormick has been activated from Injured Reserve and is expected to start the game as part of Buffalo’s two-man fourth line along with Drew Stafford.
Sabres head coach Ron Rolston understands the challenge of juggling an extra defenseman, but also realizes he’s in a tough spot with the 23-man roster.
“We’ll rotate seven guys back there. But that’s kind of where we’re at with the roster,” explained Rolston following today’s morning skate at the BB&T Center. “We’ll have seven back there, and if anything happens up front, then we can move a guy up there.”
Ville Leino has been skating for the past few days and had hoped to come off IR this weekend, but he’ll remain out while nursing a rib injury that has sidelined him for the past 10 games. Rolston categorized Leino as a possibility for Monday’s home game against Dallas.
“It’s basically about him getting back in shape now, and being comfortable doing what he’s gotta do when he’s playing,” said Rolston. “That’s taking hits and getting hit. And if he’s gonna have the puck he’s gonna get hit. So he’s gotta be ready for that and comfortable with that, so it’s probably going to be next week.”
Forwards Patrick Kaleta (seventh game missed) and John Scott (first game) are both out of the Buffalo lineup due to their respective suspensions. Kaleta traveled with the Sabres and took part in today’s skate, while Scott remained in Buffalo.
Jhonas Enroth will get the start in goal for Buffalo tonight, and it will be the first time he’s ever faced the Panthers. Enroth’s counterpart in the Florida cage will be fellow Swede Jacob Markstrom.
Forward Kevin Porter was placed on waivers Thursday, and was assigned to Rochester today after officially clearing as of 12 Noon. Rolston thinks very highly of Porter, and said the decision to waive him was a difficult one.
“It’s always the toughest thing you have to do, to cut somebody or waive somebody, whatever the case may be. I have a lot of respect for [Kevin]. He came here last year when I got here, and worked really hard for us and played really well. He’s a guy that brings it every day and battles, and he’s a real good teammate.
“It’s a difficult thing, but it’s kind of where we’re at. Especially with the amount of young guys that are getting opportunity here. It’s a tough thing and I know he’ll land on his feet and have a good attitude about it and keep working.”
The Panthers are midway through a season-high six-game homestand at BB&T Center, going 1-1-1 through the first three. Their last game was a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Tuesday, after having battled back from a two-goal deficit in the third period. Rookie Aleksander Barkov is second on the Panthers in scoring with seven points (3+4) in 10 games, numbers that rank him third among NHL freshmen.
The Sabres have swept nine of their 30 Florida/Tampa Bay road trips in franchise history, including six of the last 14 since 2005. Buffalo has a record of 19-8-1 in the Sunshine State during this time, and they are 6-3-1 in the last 10 on the road against the Panthers.
Tonight’s game opens Buffalo’s third of 13 sets of back-to-back games this season. The Sabres are 0-2-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 1-1-0 in the second game this season. Buffalo’s point breakdown in back-to-back sets this season is: four points (0), three points (0), two points (1), one point (0) and zero points (1).
The Buffalo Sabres wrap up their three-game home stand Wednesday night and open up a stretch where they’re set to take on three divisional opponents.
The Boston Bruins come to First Niagara Center on Wednesday and Sabres co-captain Steve Ott hopes the rivalry between the two teams brings out the best of his club.
“The only way we’re going to be able to match Boston is [with] our compete [level] and work ethic,” Ott said after the morning skate. “They’re a great hockey team out there and a great measuring stick. For ourselves, if we stick in there with them and play hard hockey and end up on the right end of things, it’s going to give a lot of confidence to a lot of guys in this dressing room.”
The game can be seen nationally on NBCSN and heard locally on WGR 550.
WATCH: RON ROLSTON PRESS CONFERENCE
Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder was with the New Jersey Devils the past three seasons and is just now getting re-acquainted to the Bruins-Sabres rivalry.
“I wasn’t really here when big things happened, but from what I’ve heard, it’s getting there. It’s getting nastier and nastier,” he said. “But you kind of have to focus on what you’re going to do out there and hopefully we can get two points out of this game.”
The Sabres hope to climb back in the standings and rebound from their 1-8-1 start. In those first 10 games, they’ve played strong teams like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Colorado. According to Sabres coach Ron Rolston, the Bruins are another tough opponent.
“We’ve seen some of the best come through already and this is another one of those teams,” he said. “Guys have to be prepared no matter who we’re playing but this is a team that offers a lot of challenges because of the depth they have and their competitive nature and the continuity that they’ve had over the years.”
After the game against Boston, the Sabres travel to meet the Florida Panthers and then the Tampa Bay Lightning, two Atlantic Division opponents currently ahead of them in the standings.
Rookie Nikita Zadorov will be in the lineup again for Buffalo. Rolston said he’d like to give the 18-year-old defenseman more minutes. He skated 11:01 in his professional debut on Saturday against Colorado.
GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE FOR TONIGHT'S GAME
Zadorov likes to play a physical game and had three hits against the Avalanche. Rolston said that making sure Zadorov doesn’t go out of his way to land a check is an area they’re concentrating on.
“He needs to focus on that. He can be physical but he needs to make sure that he’s putting himself in good position all the time and not giving up a lot,” Rolston said.
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to start. Defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Jamie McBain took on extra work at the end of the skate and are likely going to be healthy scratches against Boston.
There could likely be lineup changes coming for the Buffalo Sabres and Nikita Zadorov could make his NHL debut against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said that forward Cody McCormick, who is day-to-day with a lower body injury, will not be able to play, so it looks like the Sabres will dress seven defensemen against Colorado.
Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Zadorov, currently on the injured non-roster list, has been recovering from a lacerated finger he sustained in the preseason, but has been a full participant in practice the last few days. He’s skated alongside Jamie McBain in those sessions.
Rolston said on Friday that he would like to get Zadorv, who was drafted by the Sabres 16th overall in June, into a game soon. Saturday morning, Rolston declared the 18-year-old defenseman healthy enough to play.
“How close [is Zadorov] to playing? He’s ready to go at any time,” Rolston told reporters. “Could be tonight.”
If Zadorov dresses, a roster move would have to be made before the game. Rolston said they would not put McCormick on injured reserve to free up a spot on the 23-man roster.
When asked after practice if McBain was going to take Ristolainen’s place in the lineup, Rolston gave a guarded response.
“I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll see how tonight goes,” he said. “It’s a surprise.”
Zemgus Girgensons, who caught a puck above his left eye on Tuesday, will be back in the lineup for Buffalo.
“I didn’t really want to miss anything because I don’t think it was that big of a deal,” he said. “It was just some stitches and the only problem was my eye was shut. I couldn’t see. So besides that, there were no problems. It was just about the body recovering. Nothing else.”
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice during the optional morning skate and is likely to start in goal.
Sabres rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko will see a familiar face behind the opposing bench. First-year Avalanche coach Patrick Roy was Grigorenko’s coach with the Quebec City Remparts of the Ontario Hockey League for two seasons from 2011 to 2013.
Grigorenko said he is looking forward to playing against his old coach from juniors.
“He meant a lot to me. He’s the guy who taught me the most things about hockey and I was really lucky to play in North America with him [as] my coach,” Grigorenko said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to show him what he taught me and hopefully score a goal.”
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.
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.”
It’s been awhile, but the Vancouver Canucks are finally back in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Sabres will host the Canucks at First Niagara Center for the first time since Nov. 15, 2010. Buffalo won that game 4-3 thanks to a goal by Tyler Myers in overtime.
Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said he’s looking forward to facing his old team even though there are many new faces on the other side, including Canucks coach John Tortorella. Ehrhoff played two seasons in Vancouver before signing with the Sabres in the summer of 2011.
“It’s going to be fun to see the guys, but they have a new coaching staff, so it’s going to be a totally different look playing against them and I’m anxious to get out there tonight,” he said.
The Sabres won the last meeting between the two clubs by a score of 5-3 on March 3, 2012 in Vancouver. The Canucks haven’t won in Buffalo since Feb. 7, 2003.
Cody Hodgson, another former Canuck, did not partake in the morning skate, but will play Thursday. A lower-body injury has caused him to take a few maintenance days in lieu of practicing with the team. Hodgson hasn’t missed any game action.
“He’s actually real close [to 100 percent]. We’re actually probably in the last week of it right now,” Rolston said. “He’s playing through some things, but he’ll be in the lineup tonight.”
The coaching staff moved Marcus Foligno to center on Tuesday and he’ll remain there for the time being. His line with wings Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford produced two goals against the Islanders. He’ll likely see work against Henrik Sedin on Thursday.
“We have faith that Marcus can handle those situations,” Rolston said. “Again, it offers us a big centerman that can handle some of the bigger guys in the League, whether it’s the Sedins or [John] Tavares the other night. You’ve got big guys like [Eric] Staal, where you need that big body in there, a big centerman. But we have confidence in him.”
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice in practice and is expected to start in net.
Nikita Zadorov also skated with the team, but remains on the injured non-roster list. Rolston said that Zadorov is still working his way back from a finger injury sustained in the preseason and a decision will not have to be made on whether or not to send him back to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League until the team is healthier.
Patrick Kaleta will miss his fourth-straight game due to a 10-game suspension. The NHL suspended him for a hit he put on Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson on Oct. 10. Kaleta cannot play even during an appeal process.
The Sabres will be without left wing Zemgus Girgensons as well. A shot deflected up and hit him in the face in the first period on Tuesday, leaving his left eye bruised and swollen. He joined the team on the ice midway through the morning skate on Thursday while wearing a full cage on his helmet. Rolston hopes Girgensons will be ready to play on Saturday against Colorado.
“It’s actually gotten better. He’s got a little slit there he can see out of, but he won’t be in tonight … It’s come a long way over a short period of time,” Rolston said.
After playing three games in four nights, the Sabres had a mandatory day off on Wednesday. Rolston said that the schedule has made it difficult to get practices in and that it reminds him a lot of what the team went through during the lockout-shortened season last year.
“In those situations, we actually try to bring the energy back to the rink because after a day off usually, whether it’s passing or just getting the cobwebs out after a day off, so these are treated like a mini-practice you have to have out there,” he said.
“Now, like it was last year, a lot of it is trying to find the time to make adjustments and teach, but also manage energy with the game schedule that you have. It’s important that the guys have their energy during the games.”
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 9 Steve Ott
63 Tyler Ennis – 82 Marcus Foligno – 21 Drew Stafford
12 Kevin Porter – 22 Johan Larsson – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 8 Cody McCormick
UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Rasmus Ristolainen watched his first regular season NHL game from the press box Monday night. He’ll be back on the ice Tuesday against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum at 7 p.m.
Ristolainen was a healthy scratch against the Minnesota Wild on Monday and Sabres coach Ron Rolston said that allowing him to sit out a game will be important for his development as a player.
“We’ve played some of the top teams in the League early on here so it’s given him experience, but being out gives him some perspective on things he needs to get better at and I know he’ll make improvements because that’s the kind of person he is,” Rolston said after the team’s optional skate Tuesday morning.
Ristolainen, 18, was Buffalo’s top pick (eighth overall) in this year’s draft and he realizes that he needs to improve his stick work and be more of a presence in front of the net in the NHL. Watching his teammates play on Monday helped him understand what he needs to do to be a better player.
“I watched how yesterday our D played,” he said. “…I [took] away some of the things they’ve done and I think it helped me a lot.”
Having played against men in the Finnish Elite League the past two seasons, he said the levels of competition between that league and the NHL is noticeably different.
“Of course it’s harder here. In [Finland], it’s easier to play there,” he said. “Here, there are so much better players, so I have to play also better.”
The Sabres power play has struggled so far this season. Buffalo has converted only 8 percent of their opportunities through seven games (2-for-25). Ristolainen has played on the team’s second unit and said a key to getting out of their slump is to put pucks on goal through traffic.
“Of course, I need to get more pucks to net and the whole team needs to get more pucks to the net [with] the guys in front of their goalie,” he said. “Hopefully we get a couple goals soon.”
Defenseman Jamie McBain and rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko were the only skaters to take the ice for the optional morning skate and are expected to be healthy scratches against the Islanders. Goaltenders Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth also put in some on-ice work.
Right wing Patrick Kaleta has a 2 p.m. hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety regarding a hit he put on Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson on Thursday. He has not played in the team’s past two games because of the scheduled hearing.