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RISTOLAINEN MAKES THE CUT

Saturday, 09.28.2013 / 3:13 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / BEYOND THE BOARDS
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BEYOND THE BOARDS
RISTOLAINEN MAKES THE CUT

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.

Corey Tropp (broken jaw) and Joel Armia (broken hand) are also currently out and are expected to miss at least five weeks each.

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

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.


Practice Lines

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

10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
52 Alexander Sulzer – 4 Jamie McBain

30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth

Injured: 33 Joel Armia, 82 Marcus Foligno, 78 Corey Tropp, 61 Nikita Zadorov

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Hodgson 72 20 24 -26 44
T. Ennis 80 21 22 -25 43
D. Stafford 70 16 18 -19 34
C. Ehrhoff 79 6 27 -27 33
C. Stewart 63 15 11 0 26
C. Conacher 79 7 19 1 26
T. Myers 62 9 13 -26 22
Z. Girgensons 70 8 14 -6 22
M. Foligno 74 7 12 -17 19
J. McBain 69 6 11 -13 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Neuvirth 4 8 2 .921 2.78
J. Enroth 4 17 5 .911 2.82