By Mike Harrington
After sitting out three games as a healthy scratch, Mikhail Grigorenko is back in the Sabres' lineup tonight. As he should be.
If the Sabres are going to miss the playoffs this year, the No. 1 draft pick should play. I want to see 12-14 minutes a game and some power play time. Not this fourth-line garbage. Even if the team starts to improve, Grigorenko should be seeing time over some veterans (see Hecht, Jochen).
Seems like interim coach Ron Rolston agrees.
"When we put him in there, we want him to be playing with some players that he can play with and make plays and build confidence," Rolston said today.
No idea who Grigorenko will play with tonight because it was an optional morning skate with few line drills. Does he simply go on to line three with, say, Steve Ott and Nathan Gerbe or does he get a chance with Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford?
Grigorenko has one goal, two assists and a minus-4 rating while averaging 11:14 of ice time in 14 games. He's only played more than 13 minutes in three games, and has played fewer than nine minutes in four others. A veteran head coach not big on young players and trying to save his job to boot wasn't a great combination for him.
"It was really difficult," Grigorenko told me today. "Every hockey player wants to play and for the last week I didn't. I missed the last three games. It was a little bit hard. It's never happened to me in my life but tonight I'm back in the lineup so I'm hoping everything will be good."
Rolston, however, isn't going to hand Grigorenko ice time. Nor should he.
"He has to go out there and work for it," Rolston said. "But we want to put him in situations to have some success and build on because we think he's going to have a bright future."