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.”
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.”
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 Avanlanche are tied for sixth in the League with 23 goals for.
“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 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. Sabres coach Ron Rolston said Girgensons should be ready to go against the Avalanche on Saturday.
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.”
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