Center Mikhail Grigorenko rejoined the Sabres for practice Tuesday and flew to Boston with the team but is not expected to play tonight against the Bruins. After that? No one really knows.
The team’s No. 1 draft choice was officially recalled from the Quebec Remparts after his junior season ended in the second round of the Quebec playoffs. Grigorenko is now eligible to play in the American Hockey League, a choice the Sabres didn’t have earlier in the season for the NHL’s lone 18-year-old.
“He will remain on the roster for the time being until we get him in the lineup here or deem him better served by being in the lineup in Rochester,” said General Manager Darcy Regier.
“I want to see him just come back and work hard and see where that takes him right now,” added interim coach Ron Rolston. “He’s got to compete in practice and do what we need him to do there.”
Grigorenko had one goal and four assists in 22 games with Buffalo before he was returned to junior hockey on March 15, and he said he was fine with the demotion.
“I felt like I needed maybe a couple more games,” he said. “I played a lot, like 20 minutes every game. I picked up some confidence and it was good experience.”
Grigorenko finished the regular season for Quebec with 30 goals, 24 assists and 54 points in 33 games. He totaled five goals and a team-high 14 points in 11 playoff games.
Regier said the Sabres promised Grigorenko when he returned to Quebec they would initially bring him back to Buffalo after the junior season.
Regier also had a talk with Quebec coach Patrick Roy about Grigorenko and said Roy told him the 18-year-old’s attitude upon his return to juniors was excellent.
Grigorenko has had two stints in junior, a run in Buffalo, a trip to the World Juniors and perhaps a trip to the AHL in his future – but he says he’s ready for more.
“I feel really good. Still feel like I can easily play 30 more games,” he said. “I have a lot of energy. I learned a lot from the World Juniors and a lot of things I learned in Buffalo. I became a real better player than I was at the beginning of the season.”
Rolston said no decision has been made for tonight’s goaltender after Jhonas Enroth started and won both games over the weekend. While Enroth has been red-hot, it’s not like Ryan Miller has slumped in April (3-2, 2.54 goals-against average, .924 save percentage).
“It will be a difficult one,” Rolston said. “Certainly both guys are quality. Jhonas has played really well and we know what ‘Millsy’ can do.”
Miller has been good against the Bruins both this year (2-2, 2.53, .930) and in his career (24-8-7, 2.53, .919). Enroth hasn’t played Boston this year and his career numbers against the B’s are ugly (0-3-2, 4.00, .888), but Rolston said that may not be a determining factor.
Said Rolston: “I would normally just go with your gut feeling on it and how guys are performing at that point more than the history of it.”
Although there’s been no word from Hockey Canada, TSN reported Tuesday that former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff is going to be named head coach of Team Canada for the IIHF World Championships May 3-19 in Sweden and Finland. Ruff coached Team Canada to a silver medal in 2009 and was an assistant to Mike Babcock at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
In other Sabres prospect news, Rolston said it’s possible winger Luke Adam could be returned to the Amerks while 20-year-old center Dan Catenacci tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he was reporting to Rochester after the Owen Sound Attack were eliminated Sunday in Game Six of its Ontario Hockey League conference semifinal by Plymouth.
Catenacci had teams-highs of 38 goals and 79 points in 67 games for Owen Sound, and added three goals and six assists in 12 playoff games. He was Buffalo’s third-round pick in 2011.