WASHINGTON — Mark Pysyk and defense partner Brayden McNabb found all kinds of trouble Saturday during the Rochester Americans’ 6-1 loss at Toronto. McNabb was minus-5 and Pysyk was minus-3 so they were understandably glum after the loss, which dropped them to 1-7 against the Marlies this season.
The mood changed, however, when word filtered to Toronto that Andrej Sekera was injured in the Sabres’ overtime loss to Ottawa. A defenseman was needed for Sunday’s game in Washington and, instead of putting Adam Pardy back on the Rochester-to-Buffalo shuttle, the Sabres went younger and called up Pysyk, their No. 1 draft pick in 2010. He made his NHL debut Sunday night against the Capitals, playing 14:55.
“It was a tough game. We didn’t play the way we wanted to but the night sure turned around once I got the news,” Pysyk said early Sunday afternoon after arriving in Verizon Center. “I had no idea, no expectations. You hope for the best but I had really no idea. I was just doing my job, putting all my focus in there.”
Pysyk, 21, has four goals and 14 assists in 57 games at Rochester in his first pro season. He was tied with current Buffalo center Kevin Porter for the best rating on the team at plus-8.
“It’s gone well,” Pysyk said. “It started well, there was a down part midway through. But as of late playing with Brayden, I was playing pretty well.”
Pysyk is a 6-foot-1, 188-pounder who was taken 23rd overall at the 2010 draft in Los Angeles from the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. Last season, Pysyk played for Canada in the World Junior Championships and captained the Oil Kings to the WHL championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup.
“He’s just a real smart defenseman who skates really well,” said interim coach Ron Rolston. “A good puck mover, good defender. He’s got a complete game. He really keeps the game easy on himself. He’s real efficient. This will be his third game in three nights here so making sure he controls his anxiety and plays the way he can will be important.”
Sekera suffered an upper-body injury Saturday and was limited to just over 15 minutes of ice time.
Rolston said Sekera is day to day and it’s possible he could play Tuesday night in Montreal.
Mikhail Grigorenko’s first game back in junior was a rousing success Sunday as the 18-year-old the Sabres returned on Friday had a goal and three assists to lead the Quebec Remparts to a 5-3 win over Rimouski in their regular season finale.
Tweets from French reporters covering the game said the crowd of 13,663 broke into chants of “Grigo, Grigo” during the game and provided a huge ovation when Grigorenko was announced as the first star.
Grigorenko will stay with Quebec to play in the league playoffs under coach Patrick Roy, the longtime NHL goalie. When he arrived Saturday, he told reporters he was grateful to the Sabres for the chance to play in the NHL, and to veterans like Jason Pominville and Steve Ott for helping him through the season. He also reveled in the fact he got to play against the likes of Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk.
But Grigorenko, Buffalo’s No. 1 pick last June, was understandably disappointed in his NHL ice time. He played six minutes or less in four of his final eight NHL games, including a season-low 4:51 Tuesday against the New York Rangers.
“Playing five minutes per game is not enough for anyone,” Grigorenko told Le Soleil in a story translated from French. “You do not have the time to show anything. I had sometimes thought of asking [to be put] back in junior because I had not the chance to play there.”
The Sabres were to fly to Montreal after Sunday’s game and are slated to have a CBA-mandated day off today before meeting the Canadiens on Tuesday in the Bell Centre. The weather forecast for game day calls for 8-10 inches of snow in Montreal.
Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin got his 700th career point in Thursday’s win over Carolina and did it in his 579th game, third-fastest among active players. Only Teemu Selanne (541) and Jaromir Jagr (557) needed fewer games.
The Capitals wore green jerseys Sunday in honor of St. Patrick’s Day during the pregame warm-up. The jerseys were auctioned for charity during the game.
Defenseman T.J. Brennan, traded Friday to Florida for a fifth-round draft pick, played a career-high 23:42 for the Panthers in his debut Saturday night and scored his second goal of the season in a 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders. He has three goals in 22 career games.