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Larsson a center of attention for tonight's home opener

Johan
Johan Larsson on the bench during his only previous NHL game, playing for Minnesota against Detroit on Feb. 17. (Getty Images)

 

By Mike Harrington

Much of training camp and the buildup to the season opener in Detroit was spent on the debuts of first-round draft picks Rasmus Ristolainen and Zemgus Girgensons. Tonight's home opener against the Ottawa Senators will mark the Buffalo debut of 21-year-old center Johan Larsson, another player the Sabres have high hopes for as a future building block.

With Ville Leino injured and Tyler Ennis shifted to wing, Larsson will take the ice as Buffalo's No. 2 center tonight between Ennis and Steve Ott.

"I'm really excited to go out and play," Larsson said today. "Camp was pretty good for me and that helped me build the confidence to do some work. they are two good players but they just told me to go out there and play my style and that's what I want to do.

Larsson, of course, was acquired from Minnesota last year as part of the Jason Pominville trade that also brought Matt Hackett and, as it turned out, Nikita Zadorov. His career will be closely watched as a main guy acquired in the deal for a captain.

"They really wanted me I think," Larsson said. "They told me to go out and play my style. That's the only thing I have to do. It's a great group of guys here to help me out. [Henrik] Tallinder helps me out. He's from Sweden too. You just go out, have fun."

"He's going to be a great center man in this league," Ott said. "You already see great instincts. Give the kid time, let him mature into a good professional player like Jason did when he started here."

This will be Larsson's second NHL game. He spent most of last year with Houston of the AHL but played one game for the Minnesota Wild before the trade, then finished the season in Rochester.

The lines for tonight will be:

Vanek-Hodgson-Stafford
Ennis-Larsson-Ott
Girgensons-Grigorenko-Flynn
Scott-Porter-Kaleta

The defense pairs will be:

Tallinder-Myers
Ehrhoff-Pysyk
Weber-Ristolainen

The scratches will be Cody McCormick and Jamie McBain. Coach Ron Rolston is expected to spot Scott in the lineup this season, based on the rough-and-tumble nature of the opposition. No real need for him against Detroit, but a real need for him against Ottawa with the likes of Matt Kassian and old adversary Chris Neil in the Senators' lineup.

Tonight's game is Ottawa's season opener and the official passing of the torch from the Daniel Alfredsson era. Jason Spezza has taken over as captain and this is the first game without Alfredsson as a member of the Ottawa organization since May 3, 1995.

"They're a real good team. They're similar to Detroit, a little bit different makeup in terms of personnel but they play a similar style," said Rolston. "They have quick forwards up front so you see a lot of similiarties. They've got key players like (defenseman Erik) Karlsson, who you have to know where he is at all times. He's a catylst for them from the back end."

It will be Ryan Miller in goal against Craig Anderson. Rolston doesn't tip his hand but it's likely Jhonas Enroth will make his season debut Saturday night in Pittsburgh.

Be sure to go back to this post for John Vogl's look at a unique element of tonight's pregame ceremonies.

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Johan Larsson | Sabres game day
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John Vogl

John Vogl

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.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

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.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

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.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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