By Mike Harrington
Thomas Vanek missed Saturday's practice in Amherst as coach Lindy Ruff went ahead with his line shuffles, just as he promised following Friday's game. Ruff said he anticipates Vanek will play Sunday in Washington. Mikhail Grigorenko may not.
The 18-year-old rookie has played four games and one more will force the Sabres to make a decision about keeping him or returning to juniors. They didn't get much of a look in Friday's 3-1 loss to Carolina as Grigorenko played just two shifts over the final 40 minutes.
"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.
"I like where this kid is going," Ruff said. "I like where his game has been. Even his early shifts [Friday] I thought were good shifts. They had the makings of doing something good."
Ruff was tough on his players during a fast-paced, 35-minute session at the Northtown Center and they responded. The tempo was good and players said afterward the message was received loud and clear: One line scoring isn't nearly enough.
"The last two games, it hasn't been real good hockey," Ruff said. "Let's not kid ourselves. Turnovers, and turnovers by a lot of our key personnel. The short-handed goal [Thursday in Carolina] was a careless turnover. We had a 3-on-0 against us [last night] and got a couple big saves. You can't play like that. You have to take care of the puck."
"We have to get back to getting rid of the 'pond hockey'," Drew Stafford said, echoing a phrase Ruff used during the workout and again afterward to reporters about the team's loose offensive-zone play. "More north-south and using our speed."
Click below to hear audio from Ruff and Stafford.
taggedLindy Ruff | Mikhail Grigorenko | Thomas Vanek