The Canadiens are keeping No. 3 overall pick Alex Galchenyuk. (Getty Images)
By Mike Harrington
The Sabres are still up in the air with Mikhail Grigorenko even though the decision to keep him in the NHL seems like a no-brainer from this view. He's talented, he's creative and he plays center -- an area this team is woefully thin at. You want to see Grigorenko or Matt Ellis? You want them to force Ville Leino back to center, as Lindy Ruff mused about today? Please.
Keep the kid.
Still, it's only been 50-50 among other NHL teams about keeping key junior eligibles or sending them back. Here's a quick rundown:
No decision on Mikhail Grigorenko yet. (Harry Scull/Buffalo News)
By Mike Harrington
The Sabres had an optional practice today in First Niagara Center, a clear result of the tight schedule that saw the club open the season with five games in eight days. Several players, notably the top-line forwards, stayed off the ice with what coach Lindy Ruff termed "light groins" and Ruff said it was more important for them to be rested for tomorrow's visit by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Two guys who took the ice, however, garnered most of the day's attention. Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko had a full practice, even working on faceoffs with assistant coach Kevyn Adams, and Thomas Vanek skated in several drills after missing Sunday's loss in Washington with a muscle strain believed to be in his back or rib cage.
Grigorenko said the Sabres have yet to tell him if he's staying in the NHL or returning to his junior team in Quebec. Ruff said he was optimistic Vanek would return to the lineup tomorrow.
WASHINGTON -- Rick Jeanneret has been calling Sabres games for more than 40 years. The butterflies have long since disappeared.
Still, he's a little anxious as the puck gets ready to drop for the Sabres and Capitals.
"We’ll find out how rusty I am very shortly," Jeanneret said this afternoon during a broadcast booth chat in Verizon Center. "I’m long past
the days of being nervous, but I am anticipating it quite a bit because I’m not
so sure I’m going to be right up to snuff to begin with here. I think once
things get under way, I’ll be fine."
Jeanneret is back after missing the opening four games with an illness that required a brief hospitalization. He's spent the last week recuperating and following doctor's orders.
"I spent a lot of time with the iPad and a lot of time on the Kindle reading," he said. "I really didn’t do a whole lot more than that. I was told to
rest, and I tried to keep my nose to the grindstone and obey the orders. That’s
basically all I was doing.
"I did keep in touch with the team, and they were
letting me know what was happening. Mostly, from the top down, they just said, 'Stay away and get better. Don’t even think about coming back until you are.' It
was the typical Buffalo Sabres’ treatment of employees. It was top shelf."
"It's like burning a game," Ruff admitted when I asked if it might have been better to simply scratch Grigorenko rather than dress him and not use him. Ruff then admitted that getting the rookie added practice time might be in the cards, so the team isn't forced into a decision just yet.
Part of it is out of necessity as Thomas Vanek is not on the ice. Ruff said after the 3-1 loss to Carolina that Vanek would likely get today off after taking a tumble during the game and suffering an undetermined muscle strain (looked like a hard fall on his back).
Still, with only one goal from a forward in four games other than the line of Vanek-Hodgson-Pominville, things have to change. Here's how Ruff has the lines put together today:
One of the bizarre moments of the NHL's first week came last night when Sabres winger Nathan Gerbe -- in his first game back after summer spinal surgery -- took a cheap hit from Carolina's Drayson Bowman and then tried to get in a few words with Hurricanes forward Chad LaRose.
But referee Dan O'Hallaron got in the way -- and got physical with Gerbe as well. Something tells me the stripes wouldn't have done that to too many other players. Especially ones who aren't 5-foot-5. That's got to be a reprimand and/or a fine for O'Hallaron but you won't hear about that one publicly.
It was an optional morning skate for the Sabres today in preparation for tonight's game against Carolina. Ryan Miller will be in goal, likely against Hurricanes backup Dan Ellis. The Sabres aren't expected to make any lineup changes, and coach Lindy Ruff said he's not looking to shift any lines yet, even though only Thomas Vanek-Cody Hodgson-Jason Pominville is producing any offense.
"The great thing is we got one of the hottest lines in the league," Ruff said of the trio, which has eight of the team's 10 goals. "The bad thing is it's the only line that's scoring right now. But I would take three goals out of a hot line over maybe two goals from two different lines."
One of the few guys on the ice was winger Ville Leino, who skated hard for 20-25 minutes before coming off the ice. Leino has yet to play this season with what has been revealed to be an injury to his right hip.
Don't look for any changes in the Sabres' lineup tonight for the 7 p.m. rematch against Carolina. The only players skating this morning in First Niagara Center are regular scratches Mike Weber, T.J. Brennan and Matt Ellis, and injured forwards Cody McCormick and Ville Leino.
John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.
Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.