UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Rasmus Ristolainen watched his first regular season NHL game from the press box Monday night. He’ll be back on the ice Tuesday against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum at 7 p.m.
Ristolainen was a healthy scratch against the Minnesota Wild on Monday and Sabres coach Ron Rolston said that allowing him to sit out a game will be important for his development as a player.
“We’ve played some of the top teams in the League early on here so it’s given him experience, but being out gives him some perspective on things he needs to get better at and I know he’ll make improvements because that’s the kind of person he is,” Rolston said after the team’s optional skate Tuesday morning.
Ristolainen, 18, was Buffalo’s top pick (eighth overall) in this year’s draft and he realizes that he needs to improve his stick work and be more of a presence in front of the net in the NHL. Watching his teammates play on Monday helped him understand what he needs to do to be a better player.
“I watched how yesterday our D played,” he said. “…I [took] away some of the things they’ve done and I think it helped me a lot.”
Having played against men in the Finnish Elite League the past two seasons, he said the levels of competition between that league and the NHL is noticeably different.
“Of course it’s harder here. In [Finland], it’s easier to play there,” he said. “Here, there are so much better players, so I have to play also better.”
The Sabres power play has struggled so far this season. Buffalo has converted only 8 percent of their opportunities through seven games (2-for-25). Ristolainen has played on the team’s second unit and said a key to getting out of their slump is to put pucks on goal through traffic.
“Of course, I need to get more pucks to net and the whole team needs to get more pucks to the net [with] the guys in front of their goalie,” he said. “Hopefully we get a couple goals soon.”
Defenseman Jamie McBain and rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko were the only skaters to take the ice for the optional morning skate and are expected to be healthy scratches against the Islanders. Goaltenders Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth also put in some on-ice work.
Right wing Patrick Kaleta has a 2 p.m. hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety regarding a hit he put on Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson on Thursday. He has not played in the team’s past two games because of the scheduled hearing.