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Grigorenko hopes to excel with Amerks, show Sabres he'll be ready for NHL

By John Vogl

Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko joined the Amerks for practice today and will play Wednesday when Rochester hosts Syracuse. He played two playoff games for the Amerks last season.

“This year is going to be better for me than last year because I have two, three weeks to be more part of the team,” he said in Rochester. “I really have a chance to help the guys.”

The Amerks could use the assistance. They are 0-7-2 in their last nine and have fallen out of a playoff spot. They have nine games left.

“Hopefully, it’ll be a good jumpstart for us,” Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy said. “Obviously, he brings in a lot of offensive ability. We’ve had a hard time scoring goals, and every little bit helps.”

Grigorenko started this season with the Sabres but was sent to his junior team in Quebec shortly after Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine took over in November. The 19-year-old views this as an audition for the coach and General Manager Tim Murray.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for me,” Grigorenko said. “I’ll do my best and show the new general manager and Ted Nolan that I can step to the NHL next year.”

Grigorenko headed to Rochester

By Mike Harrington

The Rochester Amerks are in a Maple Leafs-like collapse out of the AHL playoffs, going 0-7-2 in their last nine games. With all the injuries in Buffalo, they're not getting many reinforcements from the parent club anytime soon but they got at least one interesting body added today.

Center Mikhail Grigorenko has been transferred to Rochester now that his junior season with the Quebec Remparts is complete. After being sent back to junior by the Sabres following his stellar play for Russia in the World Junior Championships, Grigorenko had 39 points in 23 games for Quebec (15 goals, 24 assists). He also had nine points in five playoff games against Rouyn-Noranda. (1g, 8a).

The 19-year-old has established he can dominate junior players but now it's time to see what he can do in the AHL, the level he's probably most suited for at this stage of his career. He played two Calder Cup games for the Amerks last season, once the junior campaign had ended.

Grigorenko played 18 games with the Sabres this year, with two goals and three points. He did not impress new coach Ted Nolan or then-hockey operations president Pat LaFontaine and agreed to return to junior in mid-January after initially declining the assignment.

Nolan said Saturday the Sabres would likely send Grigorenko to the AHL because of the Amerks' dire roster situation. Rochester is off until hosting Syracuse Wednesday in Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks have nine games left and entered Sunday's play three points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Video: Grigo arrives in Quebec for practice

Grigo 11-12By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- Mikhail Grigorenko arrived in Quebec City today for his first practice back with the Remparts and had a big crowd of reporters waiting for him.

You can watch this video of Grigorenko speaking with the media there on the Web site of Le Soleil. It's narrated and subtitled in French -- but he's speaking English so you can get his answers fine.

"Right now I'm here and it's the only place I want to be for right now," Grigorenko said. "I'll just work as ahard as I can. We want to win everything here.

"Buffalo Sabres and me are together and this will work for now. I'll keep pushing and trying and I won't stop until I get there."

In translated comments from the accompanying story, Grigorenko said he was happy to be back in his old home but disappointed he didn't get one more chance with the Sabres.

"I knew it was possible that they yield me to Quebec, but I thought they would give me the chance to play a few games after the World Juniors," he said in the translation. "I thought I had done well there and they would give me a chance, but it did not happen."

As I wrote in my column today, the Sabres got this one right. Grigorenko is where he belongs. Now it's all up to him. His first game is Saturday against Rouyn-Noranda. The complete schedule is here.

(Photo: Grigorenko playing for Quebec in November, 2012/Getty Images)

LaFontaine on Grigorenko: NHL Olympic break factored into decision to return him to junior

By Mike Harrington

Following today's USA Hockey announcement regarding the return of the Prospects Game to First Niagara Center, Pat LaFontaine spoke to the media for the first time about the Mikhail Grigorenko situation. The Sabres' president of hockey operations made it clear the team believes the decision to return the 19-year-old to junior hockey is by far best for his development and also made a point no one had really thought of.

The kid needs to play. And we're coming up on a month where he wouldn't see much ice if he was still in the NHL.

"One of the big parts of the decision is that once the Olympics come around if he's not playing in Rochester, he's sitting around for 20 days," LaFontaine said. "A player at 19 years of age needs to develop. He needs to be playing. You also want to put a player in a position to succeed. Maybe he's played a few years already there and done very well, but he hasn't won a Memorial Cup yet."

LaFontaine said the message to Grigorenko was clear -- go to Quebec, play 20-25 minutes a game including power play time, improve his all-around skills to become a 200-foot player and try to become a leader on a championship team.

"We're doing what we think is best to help develop our players and care for them and what they need," LaFontaine said. "I really think under the circumstances we're doing the best thing. 

"The old-school part of it is you really have to earn it. There has to be a standard. And when you get to the NHL, you have to be a consistent pro. Becoming a consistent NHL level player every night, that's hard."

And LaFontaine made it clear he feels the team's previous regime (see Regier, Darcy; and Ruff, Lindy) pretty much messed this whole thing up. No disagreement here. Olympics or no Olympics, Grigorenko simply isn't an NHL-level player yet.

"It's unfortunate that it hasn't been the right program or protocol that should have occurred," LaFontaine said. "I don't think it was. It happened. But that's behind us now. What we need to do is what's best for Mikhail going forward."

Ted Nolan on Mikhail Grigorenko: 'We just need a little bit more'

By Jay Skurski

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan reiterated today why the organization feels it's best for 19-year-old Mikhail Grigorenko to develop in juniors.

That's a decision Grigorenko at first balked at, writing over the weekend in a since-deleted Facebook post: "I would just ask all of you guys to respect me and the time I'm taking to think about my career. It might be hard to understand, but it is even harder for a teenager."

"We can't control what people do and what they say, but we certainly can control how we're going to try to run this organization and what we feel is necessary for the development of young players," Nolan said early this afternoon following practice inside the First Niagara Center. "The tail can’t wag the dog. The dog wags the tail.

"We feel as an organization it's best for him to develop in junior hockey. That's not taking anything away from him. He's got some skills and he's got some ability, but in order for him to play at this level, we just need a little bit more."

Grigorenko and his agent, Jay Grossman, agreed to the assignment late Sunday night after talking with members of the Sabres' front office.

"You got to make the best of whatever situation you're in," Nolan said. "If he learns at a young age, it's even better. But you will learn how to adapt and to adjust, and if you don't, someone else is always going to take your job."

"We all wish Mikhail the best. We want to see him do really well and get back here," center Cody Hodgson added. 

Sabres' Grigorenko accepts junior assignment; agent concerned about development process

By John Vogl

WASHINGTON – Mikhail Grigorenko really had only one option for his immediate future. After two days of discussions, the Sabres’ prospect is taking it.

The center decided late tonight he will accept Buffalo’s decision to return him to junior hockey. Grigorenko’s acceptance ended a 30-hour stalemate in which his future was unclear.

The 19-year-old feels he belongs in the NHL and was disappointed when Sabres management felt otherwise. The Sabres assigned him to the Quebec Remparts on Saturday, and he and agent Jay Grossman rejected the move.

They came around after talks with the Sabres’ brass.

“We had some real serious concerns about the development process for this player that I think were warranted,” Grossman told The News by phone tonight. “Going down to Quebec, he’ll play for his seventh coach in one calendar year. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced that.

“So we wanted to look at this a lot more carefully with the Sabres and make sure that with respect to his development that we were all on the same page and moving collectively in the right direction.”

Grigorenko has been caught in a whirlwind of teams and assignments since Buffalo decided to bring him up last season. He didn’t stay long and has since played in Quebec, Rochester, Buffalo and Russia multiple times with the country’s world junior team.

He hasn’t been given a chance to show his skills on an NHL scoring line, and he also hasn’t shown he deserves the chance. He’ll get the opportunity to again dominate in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“Junior hockey’s a good place to develop,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan, who made his name in the Ontario Hockey League. “I know P.K. Subban played four years in Bellville. He turned out pretty good.”

While Grigorenko feels he belongs in the NHL after playing 43 games at the top level, learning opportunities remain during a player’s final season of junior hockey.

“Being one of the go-to guys, playing in all situations,” said Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk. “I think you learn how to manage the game a little bit differently when you’re playing. You learn how to be a leader. You learn that guys are looking up to you and seeing what you’re doing. You’ve got to lead by example both on and off the ice.”

When Pysyk entered his final year of junior hockey, he believed he could play in Buffalo and the NHL.

“I did think maybe it was a shot,” the defenseman said. “Now, after being here, I don’t think there was a shot in hell that I was even close. When you’re a younger kid in junior, your mind sort of wanders. You think you can do whatever, but it’s obviously tough to get here.”

The Kontinental Hockey League had been discussed in regards to Grigorenko, but it never looked like a realistic option. There would have been a huge fight between the NHL, KHL and International Ice Hockey Federation over his rights if the Russian had attempted to play in his homeland.

Though the memorandum of understanding between the leagues has expired, the NHL and KHL stated in their former agreement they would “recognize and support the main principle: players under contract with a club from one league cannot fulfill any obligation to a club from another league during the term of the player’s contract.”

Sabres' Nolan had no inkling that Grigorenko would fail to report

By John Vogl

WASHINGTON -- The Sabres are getting ready to face the Capitals this afternoon, but plenty of attention is still focused on a player who is not going to be on the ice.

Coach Ted Nolan said this afternoon he had no inkling that Mikhail Grigorenko would decide not to report to his junior hockey team. Nolan joined Pat LaFontaine, the president of hockey operations, and General Manager Tim Murray in explaining the demotion decision to Grigorenko on Saturday.

"We knew obviously players would be disappointed when things like that happen, but no, no indication that he wouldn’t report," Nolan said in Verizon Center. "Tim and Pat will take care of that. I’ve got this group of guys to worry about who are here."

Neither Murray nor LaFontaine made the trip to Washington, so there was no comment from the team. Grigorenko has deleted the Facebook post he put up explaining his decision.

"I have no idea on what he’s going through or what he made his decision on or anything like that," Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk said. "Whatever decision he makes, it’s up to him.

"When you’re a younger kid in junior, your mind sort of wanders. You think you can do whatever, but it’s obviously tough to get here."

As far as the game, Nolan said John Scott will likely be a healthy scratch. Ryan Miller will start in goal, while the Capitals will counter with Philipp Grubauer. He is 6-2-3 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.

To hear Nolan's pregame chat, click the audio file below.

Grigorenko issues statement on Facebook: 'Respect me and the time I'm taking to think about my career'

By Mike Harrington

The following has just been posted by Mikhail Grigorenko on his Facebook page. We have previously confirmed this is, in fact, his page.

------------------

Hi everyone,

I just want to apologized (sic) for the situation going on right now. 

We just need to find a place for me where i can develop and be the best hockey player I can be.

I came to North America 3 years ago coming from a home in Russia where I never had a bed, a shower or heat...I work everyday to be the best hockey player I can be so I can provide for my family, have a better life... Because hockey is all I have, my passion, who I am. 

I am so grateful I played in Québec with one of the best coach (sic) in the world, amazing fans, people and city. I got to play against great players who are now doing amazing in the NHL. I'm also so proud I was drafted in the NHL by the Buffalo Sabres organization. I love the city and people there. I love my neighborhood and I love the guys. They also have owners who want everyone to be happy and love their team so much.

Now I would just ask all of you guys to respect me and the time I'm taking to think about my career. It might be hard to understand but it is even harder for a teenager.
Grigo

-----------

Quebec coach/GM Philippe Boucher has just held a press conference and apparently said he's been told Grigorenko is thinking about his career but has been told he will eventually return to the Sabres. The Sabres have yet to comment on Grigorenko.

Grigorenko's status in limbo as agent says he will not report to junior team

By Mike Harrington

The Mikhail Grigorenko saga may be taking a fresh, bizarre twist as the 19-year-old is refusing to report to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior League. Agent Jay Grossman confirmed to The Buffalo News via email that Grigorenko will not report but did not comment on my inquiries about what's next, including a possible look at the KHL.

The reports first came from Kathleen Lavoie of La Presse, who covers the Remparts for La Presse.

Grigorenko, remember, is  not eligible to go to Rochester -- which is probably the best spot for him at this point. Players with eligibility left in a Canadian junior circuit cannot be sent to the AHL, which can put 19-year-olds like Grigorenko in limbo. There's no such agreement with the United States Hockey League, which is why an 18-year-old Zemgus Girgensons could play all last season with the Amerks.

There aren't many options here at this point. Grigorenko is under contract. Might he want out to go to the KHL? That was always one of the risks the Sabres had in drafting him.  The Remparts are reportedly having a press conference with coach/GM Philippe Boucher -- the former Sabres' No. 1 pick in 1991 -- this afternoon at 4:30 to discuss the Grigorenko situation.

Coach Ted Nolan told me today after practice at Riverside's Bud Bakewell Arena that Grigorenko was upset when told he was going back to junior but that this was a "non-negotiable" decision. Grigorenko said prior to Thursday's game against Florida that he felt he belonged in the NHL, especially after improving his two-way game at the World Junior Championships.

Stay tuned.

With World Juniors over, it's back to decision time on Ristolainen and Grigorenko

How's your Finnish? Forget TSN. Here's the how-it-sounded-back-home TV call to the folks in Helsinki and environs as Rasmus Ristolainen scores the Golden Goal to beat Sweden.

By Mike Harrington

With the World Junior Championships complete, it's back to decision time for the Sabres with their three highly-touted young stars.

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov, a tournament all-star for Russia, is certainly going back to London of the OHL so he can be a standout there and get experience playing in the Memorial Cup. As hosts, the Knights get an automatic bid to Canada's premier junior championship tournament. Easy call.

The picture is not so clear for Rasmus Ristolainen and Mikhail Grigorenko.

Ristolainen, who scored the golden goal in overtime Sunday for Finland over Sweden, played 19 games for the Sabres before heading to Rochester and then joining the Finnish team. He was named the most outstanding defenseman in the tournament.

The team's No. 1 draft pick from last June could probably use more time in the AHL rather than be thrust into an NHL lineup on a weak team. But the Sabres have holes on defense with Alexander Sulzer, Jamie McBain and Mike Weber making for marginal NHLers and resurgent Tyler Myers perhaps looking at a multi-game suspension for Saturday's hit on Dainius Zubrus of the Devils.

While there might be some temptation to bring him to the NHL, Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine want to develop players and not rush them and they have that avenue by sending Ristolainen back to  Rochester. It's not so easy for Grigorenko.

Grigorenko can't go to Rochester but the Sabres can send him back to junior. The Quebec Remparts have struggled to make room for him but could trade him by Tuesday's Quebec League deadline. Or the Sabres could bring him back to Buffalo and try again to see if they can get any of his offensive talent to shine at age 19 in the NHL. He led Russia in the tourney with five goals, eight points and a plus-6 rating, and scored the first goal against Canada in the Russians' bronze-medal game victory.

You be Nolan and LaFontaine for a minute. What do you do?

Sabres' Grigorenko leads Russia to bronze medal at world juniors

By John Vogl

The Sabres hoped Mikhail Grigorenko would go to the world juniors and excel. They hoped playing with and against guys in his age group would allow him to feel good about himself and his game.

It appears the plan worked.

Grigorenko led Russia to the bronze medal this morning in Sweden. The center scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win over Canada, a victory that deprived the Canadians of a medal for the second straight year. It's first time that's happened to The True North in more than 30 years.

Grigorenko led Russia with five goals, eight points and a plus-6 rating in seven games. The next step for Buffalo is to determine whether the 19-year-old is ready to rejoin the Sabres and get ice time.

Sabres prospect Nikita Zadorov had four goals and five points for the Russians. He'll return to London of the Ontario Hockey League.

Zadorov, Grigorenko combine to knock USA out of World Juniors medal race

Zadorov
Nikita Zadorov (left) and Anton Slepyshev celebrate one of Zadorov's goals today against Team USA (Getty Images).


By Mike Harrington

MINNEAPOLIS -- There will be no gold-medal repeat for Team USA at the World Junior Championships. And they can thank two Sabres prospects for causing their ultimate set of problems.

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov had two power-play goals and Mikhail Grigorenko also scored as Russia posted a 5-3 quarterfinal win today in Malmo, Sweden. Zadorov scored both of his goals from the point on a 5-on-3 situation in the second period to put Russia into the semifinals against the Sweden-Slovakia winner. 

We know Zadorov is going to back to London of the OHL after this tournament, especially with the Knights hosting the Memorial Cup this year. But what in the world do the Sabres do with Grigorenko now? If they keep having injuries, they're going to simply put him back in the lineup and see what he does.

There's a full report on the game with comments from both Sabres prospects at this link on the tournament's official site.

McNabb back for Sabres, who are set to host Rangers; Buffalo agrees to loan Grigorenko to Russia

By John Vogl

Brayden McNabb's stay in Rochester was short but eventful. He's back in Buffalo this morning.

The Sabres sent the defenseman to the minors earlier this week so he could play for the Amerks on Wednesday. It went extremely well with McNabb scoring once and adding two assists with a plus-2 rating, more than enough to be named the First Star of Rochester's 6-1 win over Utica.

He's still not expected to be in the lineup tonight when the Sabres host the New York Rangers in First Niagara Center.

Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko, meanwhile, will play for Russia in the world junior championships. The story was reported Wednesday, and the Sabres made the official announcement this morning.

Here are a few morning notes before the Rangers' only visit:

*The Sabres will try to get points in three straight games for the first time this season.

*Drew Stafford has seven points, including six goals, in his last six games against the Rangers.

*Ryan Miller is 8-3-4 in his last 16 games against the Rangers with a .938 save percentage and a goals-against average of 1.96.

*The Rangers and Sabres have been separated by one goal in nine of their last 16 meetings, including five that required overtime.

*The Rangers' power play is 4 for 13 (30.8 percent) in the last four games.

*Brad Richards and Ryan McDonagh enter tonight's game with a four-game point streak.

*The Rangers are tied for first in the Eastern Conference and third in the NHL with nine road wins this season

Looks like Grigorenko headed to Russia for World Juniors

By Mike Harrington

Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko posted on Facebook late Wednesday afternoon that he was flying to Russia Sunday to join his national team -- and former Buffalo teammate Nikita Zadorov -- for the World Junior Championships that open later this month in Sweden.

Grigorenko told reporters for the second straight day Wednesday (see video above from Sabres.com) that he had heard nothing about the tournament from the Russian Hockey Federation but that he remained interested in playing. He told Amy Moritz of The News the same thing on Tuesday.

The Sabres said they had no information on the post or Grigorenko’s potential status but a source close to the situation told The News the process was moving forward and the team is expected to approve loaning the 19-year-old so he can play in the tournament.

Continue reading "Looks like Grigorenko headed to Russia for World Juniors" »

Grigorenko, McNabb taking a seat for Sabres but will return Saturday

By John Vogl

It's back to the press box for Mikhail Grigorenko.

The former first-round pick has repeatedly said he learns more while playing than watching, but new Sabres coach Ted Nolan is following in the footsteps of former bench bosses Lindy Ruff and Ron Rolston in sending Grigorenko to the sideline. The forward will be a healthy scratch against Toronto tonight First Niagara Center.

Grigorenko has no points and two shots in three games under Nolan while averaging about 12 minutes of ice time. Grigorenko has two goals and three points in 18 games this season.

Nolan said following the morning skate that sometimes it's better for young players to sit back and watch.

Defensemen Brayden McNabb and Jamie McBain will also observe from the press box. McNabb, another highly drafted prospect, has been too aggressive jumping up from his defense spot, Nolan said.

The coach said McNabb and Grigorenko will return Saturday in New Jersey.

The Leafs, also playing on the first of back-to-back nights, did not skate to conserve energy.

"We know it will be a raucous building," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We know it will be half filled with Leafs fans. Buffalo will be out to make a statement. ... We have to be on top of our game."

Grigorenko gets first chance under Nolan; Three other young players will sit vs. Flyers

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- There weren't many tea leaves to be read from the Sabres' optional pregame skate today in Wells Fargo Center until interim coach Ted Nolan peeled back some layers to his thinking and revealed how he's reshaping the lineup for tonight's game against the Flyers.

---As Nolan said yesterday, Rochester callups Luke Adam and Brayden McNabb are in.
---Nolan said 21-year-old defenseman Mark Pysyk and young wingers Corey Tropp (24) and  Brian (25) will sit.  Pysyk and Flynn had played all 23 games this season
---And then the bombshell:  Mikhail Grigorenko is back in the lineup and will make his debut under Nolan tonight.

Grigorenko, whose conditioning assignment to Rochester was nixed yesterday by the NHL, was not expected to play tonight. But Nolan said today the 19-year-old was insistent that he was ready and able, a stance he took with reporters yesterday as well when he asked about the illness that he said had hindered  some of his conditioning.

"We're going to give him a good look," Nolan said "You have to give him some credit. He's the one who said, 'You haven't seen me play yet.' He said it to us three or four times yesterday. We'll see him play and see what he has. He's a young, up-and-coming player who's going to be important in our organization. We have to be sure we put him in a good place and see what he has."

Grigorenko has two goals,  both coming Nov. 8 in Anaheim, and an assist in 15 games. He confounded both Lindy Ruff and Ron Rolston with his lack of grit on the ice and that's certainly something Nolan will be watching for tonight. 

What if it's more of the same in that area?

"It's the same thing raising your children at home," Nolan said. "You ask them to do something and if they don't do it, you take certain things away. Here, it's ice time. If he doesn't compete, he won't get out there too much."

Nolan had  praise for Pysyk, Flynn and Tropp and said they simply need to work on their consistency. Pysyk was minus-3 in Tuesday's loss to St. Louis and Tropp was minus-2. Both are minus-8 for the season.

"Sometimes it's good to sit back. It's nothing to do with their lack of ability," Nolan said. "It's just the maturity has to come at the right time. They'll get back in the lineup."

Click below to hear more of Nolan's thoughts from early this afternoon.

Ted Nolan

Roster shuffle continues: Adam, McNabb called up while Grigorenko returns after NHL nixes conditioning assignment

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres made four roster moves yesterday and have just announced three more this morning prior to practice in First Niagara Center, although one is essentially a reversal of one of Tuesday's decisions.

Forward Luke Adam and defenseman Brayden McNabb have joined the club from Rochester while center Mikhail Grigorenko has returned to the club after his conditioning assignment to the Amerks was rejected by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Grigorenko consented to the 14-day assignment, as is required by Article 13.8 of the CBA. But he is otherwise ineligible for the AHL because he is a 19-year-old with junior eligibility remaining and Bettman apparently enforced a clause of the article that says:

"If the Commissioner has reason to believe or determines that the Club has used the Conditioning Loan to evade Waivers, or otherwise circumvent any provision of this Agreement, he may take such disciplinary action against the Club, as he deems appropriate."

Continue reading "Roster shuffle continues: Adam, McNabb called up while Grigorenko returns after NHL nixes conditioning assignment" »

Sabres send Grigorenko to Amerks on conditioning assignment on transaction-laden day

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."

Ted Nolan

Sabres' Nolan: 'You don't force-feed somebody and say we're rebuild'

By John Vogl

One of the things Pat LaFontaine and Ted Nolan have been discussing since taking over the Sabres is the roster. You can expect it to change -- very soon.

The days of teenagers getting the keys to the car are coming to an end. Nikita Zadorov is likely heading back to junior hockey, and Mikhail Grigorenko might be alongside him. Other youngsters, such as Johan Larsson and Rasmus Ristolainen, might be on their way to Rochester.

"We have so many young guys here, and it’s almost like going back to junior hockey in some sense," Nolan said today after practice. "Patty and I have been talking for the last three, four days about that. I didn’t realize how young they really were and the positions that they’re in and the capabilities of what they can do besides playing here.

"There’s some maneuvering room we can do here. We checked the farm team, see who’s going well down there. There’s a couple players playing exceptionally well down there that deserve an opportunity. We’ve been tweaking. We’re going to meet right after this and see what we can do."

The Sabres' plan under Darcy Regier was to use young players, lose and get a high draft pick.

"We’re going to try to get this thing on proper footing going forward and putting people in position of success versus force-feeding them," Nolan said. "You see some good organizations and how they go about it. You don’t force-feed somebody and say we’re rebuild. Rebuild is important, but how you rebuild is really important.

"Like I said, Patty and I have been talking about it since we got involved. I think you can have some young kids, a few of them, but not as many as we have."

Ted Nolan

Roy effusive with praise of his team, guarded with talk of Grigorenko

By Mike Harrington

Hall of Fame goaltender and new Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy was in a great mood early this afternoon and why wouldn't he be? The Avs are one of the surprise stories of the league and hit town with a 6-1 record for tonight's game against the Sabres.

And while Roy said plenty about his team, what did I want to talk about? Mikhail Grigorenko. It was Roy who coached Grigorenko through junior hockey with the Quebec Ramparts, right through the end of last season after Girgorenko was shipped back from the Sabres. Grigorenko has one goal in 31 games over two seasons and no points in seven games this year. It was an understandably uncomfortable topic for Roy, since Grigorenko is no longer his player.

"I watched last year a few games because coaching in the junior I was hoping he was coming back," Roy said. "This year, quite frankly, it would be unfair by me to make any statement, for their coaching staff and for 'Grigo' as well."

Pressed further, however, Roy admitted he was surprised Grigorenko has struggled to produce here. 

"The area that we were trying to work hard with Grigo was the compete level," Roy said. "In my opinion, he was losing too many battles. At times Grigo thought he was working hard but in watching the clips he was not. Obviously we were trying to break that down. That's all I can say."

Roy doesn't have that problem with No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon, who is tied for the team scoring lead with seven points. Pretty interesting to contrast the above comment with what Roy said about MacKinnon.

"What I like about Nathan is that I'm not asking the question, 'Which guy is going to come tomorrow and play?' I know tonight he's going to play hard," Roy said. "He's not perfect. There's some details in his game that have to improve. But I know one thing: He's going to play hard here tonight and he's going to play with consistency."

The Avalanche blew away the franchise record by winning their first six games this season, and Roy tied former teammate Mario Tremblay's NHL record for consecutive wins to start by a new coach. They lost to Detroit, 4-2, on Thursday and hope to start a new streak tonight.

"They've been extremely receptive to the teaching we've done so far. I love the intensity and energy that we have on the ice," Roy said. "I love how we play on our tracking, our backchecking. Everybody is committed to it. I love the commitment of our players since the first day of training camp. I could draw a list of things I love about my team right now. It's fun to see how committed we are."

Click below to hear Roy's entire session with reporters, capped by his thoughts on his trip to Rochester last night to see his son, Freddy, play with the Amerks.

Patrick Roy

 

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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 | [email protected]

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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