With the possible return of one veteran player, some younger players on the Buffalo Sabres may soon be filling different roles.
Defenseman Mike Weber said he feels like he’s ready to return to the lineup Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues and interim coach Ted Nolan said after practice on Monday that Weber will likely be back in.
“All indications are he’s ready to go,” Nolan said at First Niagara Center.
Weber has been out since Oct. 26 with a thumb injury. He skated with Jamie McBain at practice, who scored on Saturday in Toronto.
When the team activates Weber from injured reserve, a roster move would have to be made.
With seven rookies on the team, the Sabres are currently the youngest team in the NHL and have many players that are eligible to play either in the American Hockey League or at the junior level without having to clear waivers.
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Nolan said that he has had discussions with President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine about which players might be best served developing elsewhere in the short term.
The Sabres currently have four teenagers on the roster and are the first NHL team since 1995-96 to dress four teenagers during the course of a season. That year, the Sabres joined Florida and Winnipeg as the last teams to dress at least four teenagers in a season. Jay McKee, Martin Biron, Wayne Primeau, Vaclav Varada and Curtis Brown were Buffalo’s four teens. Florida dressed four teenagers during that season and Winnipeg played six.
Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, the four teens currently on the Sabres roster, have been relied on in both even-strength and special-teams play this season.
“I didn’t realize how young they really were in the positions they’re in and the capabilities of what they can do besides playing here,” Nolan said.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Sabres are the first team to dress four teenagers in a single game since March 30, 1996, when Winnipeg dressed four 19-year-old players (Shane Doan, Chad Kilger, Deron Quint and Oleg Tverdovsky) in a 5-2 loss to Detroit. The only other time the Sabres have dressed four teenagers simultaneously was in the 1982-83 season, when forwards Dave Andreychuk and Paul Cyr and defensemen Phil Housley and Hannu Virta all played in 21 games together.
Nolan believes that sending young players down a level or two shouldn’t be seen as a demotion, but as an important part in the development of their careers. He also said that he and LaFontaine are looking at possibly giving players currently with the Rochester Americans a chance with the Sabres.
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“You see good organizations and how they go about it. You don’t force feed somebody and then say, ‘we’re [in a] rebuild.’ Rebuild is important, but how you rebuild is really important,” Nolan said. “Like I said, Patty and I have been talking here since we got involved. I think you can have some young kids, a few of them, not as many as we have.
“…Everything’s up for change right now and we’re going to try to get this thing on a proper footing going forward and putting people in a position of success versus force-feeding them.”
Nolan said that he’s still learning about all of the players and has talked with the assistant coaches and training staff to get more and information about them. Not every player responds the same way to certain type of motivation from a coach.
“You have to find out those buttons that need to be pushed,” he said. “Some guys on this team already, they need a good swift kick in the rear and some people might need a little hug. So we’ll go through that once we find out the personalities of the player.”
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
63 Tyler Ennis – 23 Ville Leino – 9 Steve Ott
82 Marcus Foligno – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 8 Cody McCormick – 78 Corey Tropp
25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 22 Johan Larsson
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 4 Jamie McBain
61 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth