WINNIPEG – Mikhail Grigorenko
has had to wait patiently for his chance to return to the NHL. That time has finally come.
With Torrey Mitchell out after blocking a shot off his foot in Monday night’s win over Ottawa, the team needed to recall someone from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. They chose to bring up Grigorenko, 20, who has been having a good season in the AHL.
He’s fourth on the Amerks in scoring with 19 points in 27 games and second on the team with seven goals. His main focus, however, has been on becoming a better all-around player.
“Points are really important, but for me it was more important for me to play a strong two-way game and be good in battles and be good in the physical aspect of the game,” he said after a brief skate Tuesday morning at MTS Centre.
“At the beginning of the season, I was scoring, but I don’t think I was that physical. I think now I’m better along the boards and in the battles, on the forecheck and things like that – things I needed to get better at. I think I was able to improve in those areas of my game.”
Grigorenko made a strong impression in training camp this year, but it was ultimately decided that he would be best served to continue his development in Rochester.
“I thought he was by far one of the best players in training camp. I’m quite sure he was disappointed to go down to Rochester but that’s part of the development process,” Nolan said. “He has his chance here tonight. We’ll see what he can do. But I really liked his game in training camp and hopefully he can add a little offensive attack to us.”
He’ll play on a line between Nicolas Deslauriers and Drew Stafford. Marcus Foligno will take Mitchell’s spot at center, flanking Brian Flynn and Brian Gionta. Sabres coach Ted Nolan did not have an update on Mitchell’s status Tuesday morning.
Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST with the Tops Gamenight pregame show beginning at 7:30 p.m. EST on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
BISCUIT IN THE BASKET
Grigorenko will step in on a team that has been clicking offensively as of late. The Sabres have scored four or more goals in their last three games for the first time since April 5 to 9, 2011. They haven’t done so in four or more consecutive games since they did it in five straight from Feb. 20 to March 2, 2007.
The team has also received strong performances in goal from Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth.
It’ll be Neuvirth who gets the call against Winnipeg. He’s 4-1-1 with a .939 save percentage and a 1.85 goals-against average in his career against the Jets.
“Scoring goals in general, that’ll help the cause no matter what. Even when Jhonas and Neuvy were making 40-some saves, we weren’t scoring,” Drew Stafford, who has points in four of his past five games, said. “Now, the tables have turned a little bit where we are getting three or four goals, we are getting that secondary scoring that’s helping as well.”
The Sabres are now 10-3-0 in their last 13 games, winning 10 games in a 13-game span for the first time in a single season since Feb. 1 to March 3, 2007 (10-2-1). The Sabres will look to make it 11 wins in 14 games tonight for the first time since Jan. 30 to March 3, 2007 (11-2-1). They’re currently on a four-game winning streak.
“We’re just doing our best to try and ride this as long as we can and make sure we’re sticking with it,” Stafford said. “I’ll tell you what, it’s a lot more fun to win.”
A TOUGH PLACE TO PLAY
One place the Sabres haven’t had much success at all recently has been in Winnipeg. Buffalo is 0-4-0 in Winnipeg since the Jets relocated from Atlanta in 2011.
They’re looking for their first road win against the franchise since Oct. 20, 2010 and their first win in the city of Winnipeg since Feb. 10, 1993.
It’ll be the second and final meeting between the two clubs this regular season. The Jets won 2-1 in Buffalo on Nov. 26.
“We’re approaching it as a big game. We know these are good here,” Flynn said. “We played them not that long ago and they beat us. They’re a good physical team and they work hard so we’re mostly concentrating on matching their work ethic.”
Alternate captain Josh Gorges made the trip and will be a game-time decision for Buffalo. The defenseman missed Monday’s game with a finger injury and Nolan said he was close to playing in that one. They’ll skate seven defensemen in pregame warmups and make a decision after that.
Even if Gorges is available, Nolan said he’ll likely switch the defensive pairings up. That would probably mean reuniting Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen.
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 82 Marcus Foligno – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 21 Drew Stafford
80 Chris Stewart – 19 Cody Hodgson – 36 Patrick Kaleta
Defense: 4 Josh Gorges, 24 Tyson Strachan, 41 Andrej Meszaros, 51 Nikita Zadorov, 55 Rasmus Ristolainen, 57 Tyler Myers, 61 Andre Benoit
34 Michal Neuvirth
1 Jhonas Enroth
Injured: 8 Cody McCormick (lower body), 17 Torrey Mitchell (lower body)
Injured Reserve: 6 Mike Weber (knee), 31 Matt Hackett (knee)