The Buffalo Sabres haven’t played since Saturday and are ready to get back to work Thursday night.
They’ve had three strong days of practice leading up to their match against the New York Rangers at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m. and are looking forward to finally lacing up their skates again for game action.
Center Cody McCormick has missed four games with an upper-body injury, but is ready to roll against the Rangers.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said that defenseman Alexander Sulzer, who has missed practice all week with an undisclosed injury, will be placed on injured reserve so that McCormick can return to the lineup.
GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE FOR TONIGHT'S GAME
McCormick has been out since Nov. 21, but Nolan doesn’t expect him to miss a beat.
“Certain players have a certain skill set and I don’t think he’s going to miss too much. He brings energy to our lineup,” Nolan said after the team's optional morning skate. “He’s only been out a week, so it won’t affect him too much, but we expect some high energy from Cody and we’re looking forward to getting him back in the lineup.”
Defenseman Brayden McNabb was back with the team Thursday morning after spending Wednesday with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
McNabb scored a goal and recorded two assists Wednesday night in the Amerks’ 6-1 win over the Utica Comets.
“It doesn’t surprise me because he went down with such a great attitude. Attitude is everything. It’s like a flat tire. If you don’t change it, you ain’t going nowhere,” Nolan said. “He had a real good attitude about going down. He knows that he’s got a little ways to go for being a full-time NHL player and he went down and made us look bad for sending us down because he played real well.”
McNabb is expected to be a healthy scratch against the Rangers. With Sulzer now on injured reserve, Jamie McBain will be able to step back into the lineup.
WATCH: TED NOLAN'S PREGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
McBain has two goals and three assists in 16 games this season. He’s been a healthy scratch the past four games.
“It was an unfortunate situation that happened with him because I was trying to learn [about] everyone here and I was trying to get Myer’s game going and Ehrhoff’s game going and he just kind of got caught up into the mix,” Nolan said. “It was unfair to sit him out for any other reason but we had to find out about other people so we know he’s more of an offensive-gifted guy. Hopefully we’ll expect that.”
After missing practice on Wednesday, Matt D'Agostini was on the ice and is ready to play.
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal.
The Sabres announced Thursday that they would loan rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko to the Russian men's national junior ice hockey team so that he can play in the IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden later this month.
Grigorenko has seen limited ice time in his first full NHL season. Through 18 games, he’s scored twice and added an assist. He’s averaging 11:25 of ice time per game and has played a larger role in the games he’s dressed under Nolan. He has not played in Buffalo’s last two games.
“I think it’s going to be great for me because here, I’m not getting enough ice time so I’m a little bit frustrated. But there, I’ll play a lot,” he said. “It’s a really good level there, all the best junior players. I’m going to play against players my age and I’ll play a lot. I’ll play big minutes, so it’ll be a really good experience for me.”
Nolan said it will be a great opportunity for Grigorenko to get some playing time on a big stage.
“It’s the best junior kids in the world playing. So he’ll have that chance and hopefully represent himself very well and help further his development.”
Grigorenko said he’s really looking forward to representing his country again. He’s played for Russia in the last two junior tournaments.
“I’m really excited. I can’t wait to go there and meet all my friends and start preparation for world juniors,” he said. “It’s a big tournament for us and we have all the chances to win the gold and hopefully I’ll be able to bring my best game there.”
One of those friends is Sabres defensive prospect Nikita Zadorov, who was selected in the first round of this year’s draft. Zadorov will also participate in Russia’s selection camp.
Grigorenko said he will meet Zadorov in Toronto for a flight to Russia on Sunday.
As for other players in the Sabres system who could play in the tournament, J.T. Compher has been named to Team USA’s preliminary roster and Gustav Possler was named to Sweden’s preliminary roster. Amerks defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who suffered an upper-body injury last week, is eligible to play for Team Finland.
The 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship will take place from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Malmo, Sweden. Canada, the United States, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany will compete in Group A. Group B consists of Russia, Sweden, Finland and Norway.