Rasmus Ristolainen returned to work Friday, logging three shots on goal and an even rating as Finland kicked off the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship with a 5-1 victory over Norway. Saku Mäenalanen (NSH) paced the Finnish offense, scoring twice and adding an assist to earn the club’s player of the game honor.
Thankful for the NHL experience gained but excited to represent Finland alongside his junior-aged peers, Ristolainen was smooth and confident in his execution on the Finnish blue line while paired with former TPS Turku teammate Mikko Lehtonen. The right-hander showed poise in transition, smarts in front of his net, and was strong on both the power play and penalty killing units. The steady performance was encouraging given how it was Ristolainen’s first game action since suffering an upper body injury Nov. 29 while playing with the AHL’s Rochester Americans.
FINLAND/NORWAY GAME SUMMARY
Ristolainen, whose only hiccup came when he was beat to a corner puck on the lone Norwegian goal, will look to build upon the performance when Finland renews their rivalry with host Sweden on Saturday. Norway, who falls to 0-2 in the tournament, will get a day off before battling the Swedes on Sunday.
In the day’s early game, Marko Dano (CBJ) and Milan Kolena each recorded two goals and an assist as Slovakia throttled Germany 9-2. German draft prospect Leon Draisaitl captured a pair of assists in defeat, highlighted by a nice play when he displayed nifty stickhandling in tight before sending a cross-crease pass to Dominik Kahun for a second-period tally. Draisaitl, who posted six points (2+4) in last year’s tournament, currently ranks fifth overall in WHL scoring with 51 (18+33) through 33 games with the Prince Albert Raiders. Draisaitl and the Germans will look to right the ship on Sunday when they square off with the United States.
SLOVAKIA/GERMANY GAME SUMMARY
Saturday will serve a full slate of action with four games in total. In addition to the Sweden-Finland matchup, Group B will see Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko resume play as Russia takes on Switzerland. In Group A, the United States battles Slovakia (7:30 a.m., NHL Network/NHL.com) while Canada faces the Czech Republic (11:30 a.m., NHL Network).
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s web site - sabresprospects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @sabresprospects for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.