The Buffalo Sabres assigned defenseman Brayden McNabb to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Wednesday, but Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said not to expect him there for very long.
McNabb’s been a healthy scratch for Buffalo the past two games and with the Amerks hosting Utica on Wednesday, he’ll have an opportunity to log some big minutes right away.
“The greatest thing about having the Rochester Americans so close [is that] he can go down and play,” Nolan said after practice at First Niagara Center. “He’s sat out almost five days now, so right now we can get him some game action and we’ll recall him right after the game.”
Right wing Matt D’Agostini and defenseman Alexander Sulzer did not practice. Nolan said that D’Agostini is fighting the flu and hopes that he’ll be available Thursday night when the Sabres host the New York Rangers. Sulzer, meanwhile, has not taken the ice all week as he deals with an undisclosed injury.
WATCH: TED NOLAN'S PRESS CONFERENCE
“We thought he was going to be better today. He’s gotten a lot better today, but not to the point where he could play yet or practice, so it’s going to be day-to-day,” Nolan said.
It’s possible that Buffalo could put him on injured reserve so that they can activate center Cody McCormick, who is ready to return to the lineup. However, Nolan said they’ll wait to see how Sulzer feels Thursday morning before making that move.
Wednesday marked the third practice day in a row for the team. They focused on special teams play toward the second half of the session.
Marcus Foligno has been active on the penalty kill this season and talked a lot on the ice with assistant coach Joe Sacco on Wednesday.
“P.K. in this League is huge. It’s a game-changer, for sure. For myself, playing minutes, you want to be counted on to be out there and be able to shut down top lines and top power plays,” Foligno said. “He’s just trying to teach me about the penalty kill right now and getting used to it. It’s been going pretty well.”
GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE FOR THURSDAY'S GAME
Foligno has been on the fourth line the past few games where Nolan wants him to be more of a force in the physical game. He’s skated with John Scott and Brian Flynn and the line has had their share of offensive opportunities recently. Foligno is trying to make the most of his ice time and feels that his game has improved as of late.
“I think the last couple games have been better. Just the work ethic and consistency have been there and things like that. I think [Nolan] just wants physicality from me every shift, just being simple,” he said.
“…It’s up to me. When I move my feet and am hard on pucks and protect the puck, I’m noticeable out there. And when I don’t, I’m not noticeable, so he just wants me to be noticeable every night and be a player that has an impact.”
Nolan talked about Foligno’s play on Tuesday and has liked the adjustments that the 6-foot-3, 223-pound wing has made.
“Marcus is a big powerful forward and I told him he’s just big. He wasn’t powerful. He wasn’t hitting anybody. He wasn’t using his size to his advantage. I told him we needed that,” Nolan said. “We needed him to be more aggressive on the first, on the forecheck, needed him to cause some havoc for the opposition and I thought the last couple games, he started doing that.”WATCH: INTERVIEW WITH FOLIGNO'S LINEMATE JOHN SCOTT
Foligno’s ice time has increased in each of the past four games. On Saturday in New Jersey, he played 11:31 with 1:53 coming on the penalty kill.
“I also told him that if he continues to do it, those guys on the top three lines better be watching out because he’s coming,” Nolan said.
Nolan and president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine have discussed the possibility of loaning rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko to the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia for the IIHF World Junior Championship later this month.
Grigorenko said Wednesday that he has not talked to anyone yet about it, but he would welcome the chance to play for Team Russia in the tournament, which will be held in Sweden.
“Nobody has spoken with me yet and there’s still some time. I’m always happy to represent my country and I would be happy to go there and have the opportunity to play there,” he said. “If they want me to play there, I guess we’ll discuss it with Pat and with Ted and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
WATCH: INTERVIEW WITH MIKHAIL GRIGORENKO
Grigorenko has played on the Russian national team the past two years and believes they have a good chance to win gold this year.
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov, a first-round selection of the Sabres in this year’s draft, will take part in Russia’s selection camp. Forward J.T. Compher, a second-round pick in 2013, has been named to Team USA’s preliminary roster.
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 23 Ville Leino
72 Luke Adam – 63 Tyler Ennis / 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
32 John Scott – 8 Cody McCormick / 65 Brian Flynn – 82 Marcus Foligno
Defense: 3 Mark Pysyk, 4 Jamie McBain, 6 Mike Weber, 10 Christian Ehrhoff, 20 Henrik Tallinder, 57 Tyler Myers
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth
Moulson – Hodgson – Ennis
Stafford – Ehrhoff
Adam – Ott – Leino
Myers – McBain