FOLIGNO LIKELY TO MISS OPENER
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