By John Vogl
The Sabres have found a two-week solution to their dilemma of what to do with Mikhail Grigorenko. They have sent him to the Rochester Americans on a conditioning assignment.
The Sabres' 19-year-old forward hasn't been able to secure a spot in Buffalo's lineup, and his chances got longer when Pat LaFontaine and Ted Nolan took over the team. The president of hockey operations and the coach believe young players need to develop, and they proved it today by sending rookies Johan Larsson and Rasmus Ristolainen to Rochester and first-round pick Nikita Zadorov to London of the Ontario Hockey League.
"There's not too many 18-year-olds that can step in this league and be a contributing player," Nolan said today following the morning skate. "We have to develop them."
The Sabres had a stickier situation regarding Grigorenko. He is already in the second year of his three-year contract. Also, his junior team, the Quebec Remparts, have their league-maximum two import players and would have needed to trade Grigorenko or one of the other foreigners, whom they like.
So the Sabres dug into the collective bargaining agreement and dialed up Article 13.8, which allows teams to send a player to the minors for 14 days on a conditioning loan.
"I didn't realize also when I got here that he wasn't feeling very well the last little bit," said Nolan, who dialed up his famous "general body soreness" line as a description of the injury.
Grigorenko remains on the Sabres' roster during the conditioning loan and collects his NHL salary.
The Sabres plan to call up at least one player from Rochester, but no one will come up for tonight's game against St. Louis in First Niagara Center.
"We plan to do that," Nolan said of recalls. "Pat LaFontaine knows exactly what we're going to do, and we'll announce that later."
Multiple Sabres veterans said the young players did as well as they could, but they were not NHL ready.
"It's not their fault," said defenseman Mike Weber, who was activated from injured reserve and will play after missing 10 games with a broken thumb. "This is the best league in the world for a reason. It's tough for anyone to come out of juniors or wherever you're coming from to step in.
"It's a good opportunity for those guys to go down, play some bigger minutes, play some more important roles and take the experience they have from here down there or wherever they're going."