Coming off a bronze-medal performance with Team Russia in the IIHF World Junior Championship, Mikhail Grigorenko was back on the ice with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday at First Niagara Center.
He won’t play Thursday night against the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m., but the 19-year-old rookie center was excited to return. He led Team Russia with five goals and three assists in seven games in the tournament.
“I think this year, I was more of a leader on the team,” Grigorenko said after Buffalo’s optional morning skate. “I was leading by example and pretty much all the players on the team knew that I was from the NHL and they were just looking up to me. I was really happy about my experience there. ”
This was Grigorenko’s third time playing in the World Junior Championship. While he would have liked to win gold, he believes he gained a lot more experience this year. He was put in situations that he believes have helped his all-around game.
“Maybe previously, I was playing more offensively. I didn’t really think about defense or little details like faceoffs or winning battles,” he said. “This year, I played a really good two-way game. I thought I played good defensively and I also played on the penalty kill. I thought I was more of a complete player. I was doing a lot of good stuff for the team offensively and defensively.”
WATCH: MIKHAIL GRIGORENKO INTERVIEW
Grigorenko hopes to stick with the Sabres, but it’s uncertain how long he will be in Buffalo, however. He could be returned to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Sabres management will meet as soon as after the game on Thursday to discuss his future.
Making a decision is a priority for new general manager Tim Murray.
“He just came back from Europe,” Murray said. “And in all honesty, I got here last night and started talking about scenarios and we’re past the point of having four different scenarios. There are two scenarios and we’ll decide one of those two here very quickly.”
The team announced that Murray had been named the new GM in a press conference Thursday after practice.
Jhonas Enroth is expected to start in goal.
He’ll make up for his missed start Tuesday night when the team’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes was postponed due to inclement weather. That game has since been rescheduled for Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.
Ville Leino and Cody Hodgson both took part in the skate, but neither is quite ready to play.
Hodgson wore a red non-contact jersey for the second day in a row. He’s been out since Dec. 21 with an upper-body injury.
GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE FOR TONIGHT'S GAME
Leino, in a normal yellow jersey the forwards wear on game days, worked with the assistant coaches after the skate. Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said they were going to push him pretty hard and then see how he responds.
Leino has missed two games with a lower-body injury.
The Sabres will be without two of their top defensemen. Alternate captain Henrik Tallinder is out due to an upper-body injury and Tyler Myers will serve the first game of a three-game suspension handed down by the NHL Department of Player Safety.
In the team’s last game, Myers hit New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus in the head and received a two-minute minor. After a phone hearing Monday, the League decided to suspend Myers for three games.
WATCH: MIKE WEBER INTERVIEW
Tallinder has missed three games and Myers has worn an “A” in his place. Now with Myers out, Nolan announced that Mike Weber will serve as an alternate captain.
“It’s a huge honor and it kind of makes you a little bit speechless. I’ve tried to be a leader without it for a long time,” Weber said. “I’ve always tried to play the same way, play a hard game and be hard to play against. The most important thing is be a good teammate in the locker room.”