LOS ANGELES — Mikhail Grigorenko understands why he watched from the press box Thursday night as the Sabres played in Los Angeles. Buffalo was coming off a big win over San Jose, so coach Ron Rolston decided to keep the forward lines and defensive pairings intact against the Kings.
“I understand his decision to stick with the roster that won the game,” Grigorenko said in Staples Center. “He’s the coach and guys played well the last game, so I don’t think you have to change anything.
“But I don’t understand why I was scratched in the previous games.”
Grigorenko has been on the sidelines for three straight outings. The 19-year-old insists he learns more from playing than watching, and that was the case during his last appearance.
Grigorenko set a season high with three shots against the New York Rangers on Oct. 31. The center felt he fit in well with wingers Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Flynn, with the line combining for nine of the Sabres’ 29 shots in a 2-0 loss. Grigorenko was also Buffalo’s best faceoff man, winning seven of nine draws while playing 11:32.
“I thought it was one of my better games of the season,” he said. “I was real disappointed when I didn’t play.
“We did good on our line, so I was hoping I was going to get a chance to play against Anaheim or in San Jose, but obviously I didn’t play. I’m just waiting for a chance.”
Rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov is also biding his time on the sideline. He sat for the second straight game while the Sabres played the Kings in a game that ended too late for this edition.
Rolston has scratched the 18-year-old in three of the last four outings.
“For us young guys, I think it’s good to be watching games upstairs, but we want to play,” Zadorov said. “For sure it’s hard for me. It’s OK for me to just keep practicing, keep working hard and keep my head up. For sure it’s hard to do because I want to play hockey.
“I want to play every game here. I want to help these guys.”
Zadorov has one goal and a minus-3 rating in his six outings. He can play three more times before the Sabres need to decide whether to return him to juniors with London of the Ontario Hockey League or start the clock on his three-year, entry-level contract.
Zadorov said no one has told him what the Sabres plan to do.
“I don’t worry about it,” he said. “I think I can stay here and play all season here. I think I’m ready for NHL.”
It wasn’t known whether either player will be in the lineup tonight when the Sabres finish their California swing with a game in Anaheim.
“I would hope they’re disappointed to not be in the lineup, but it is what it is,” Rolston said. “We won a game last time, so I kept the lineup the same.”
John Scott’s suspension is up. The Sabres’ enforcer sat the final game of his seven-game ban for a head shot, and he’s eligible to return against the Ducks. Rolston said Scott’s spot in the lineup would be determined on a game-by-game basis.
“To get this whole debacle over with, it’s nice to move on and hopefully forget about it and start just playing hockey and hopefully get some wins,” Scott said. “It’s my first suspension ever. It’s been real tough. The guys have nice, kind of keeping me involved in the practices. I’m just glad it’s over.”
Folks around the league were debating Scott’s place in the NHL and the role of fighting in hockey when he went out Oct. 23. Chatter about eliminating fights comes up every year, but the conversations are lasting longer and are more intense this season.
“It’s not seeming to go away,” Scott said. “I don’t think you’ll ever get it out of the game, but I think you’ll see little changes down the road where they tweak the rules and make it a little more harsh for guys doing the staged fighting. The idea to get it out of the game, I just think it’s not the right way to go for hockey, and I hope everyone can see that.”