UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers will not play Saturday night against the New York Islanders so rookie Rasmus Ristolainen has been recalled on an emergency basis from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League to take his spot in the lineup.
It’s likely that Myers will miss both the game against the Islanders and Buffalo’s home game Sunday night against the Montreal Canadiens. Myers sustained the injury during the team’s game in Carolina on Thursday.
The Sabres leave Monday for a five-game, coast-to-coast road trip that starts in Calgary and ends on March 27 in Nashville with stops in Edmonton, Vancouver and Montreal.
“Hopefully we get him back by the long trip,” Nolan said. “He went to finish his hit and kind of missed the guy a little bit, but we’ll go from there.”
Ristolainen, Buffalo’s top pick in the 2013 NHL Draft (eighth overall), was on the ice for Buffalo’s optional morning skate at Nassau Coliseum after taking an early morning flight out from Rochester.
He joins the team for the second time this year after beginning the season in Buffalo for a 19-game stint. He scored his first NHL goal in his ninth game.
He was sent down to Rochester on Nov. 19 and has recorded 18 points (6+12) through 30 games played with the Amerks.
“Of course I was a little bit disappointed at that point when I got sent down but I tried to work harder every day,” he said, calling this recall a nice surprise.
The Sabres started the year with four teenagers on the roster – including Ristolainen, who’s 19 – but when Nolan took over behind the bench, the organization shifted gears and opted to play with a more experienced lineup in Buffalo. Since then, a few other young players like Mark Pysyk have been sent down to bolster the Amerks lineup and gain valuable experience.
“As coaches and managers, we’re almost like parents. Some kinds think they’re 26 when they’re only 16 year old. They need guidance and they need direction,” Nolan said. “I’m quite sure Rasmus thought he was capable of playing at this level and at that time and rightfully so, they should. But sometimes, you’re not. Nothing like some good tutelage and development to make you a better player so I’m glad it’s worked.”
Ristolainen was counted upon in many different situations in Rochester and in his first professional season in North America, he also had to adjust to the smaller ice surface. Sabres alternate captain Henrik Tallinder thinks that time in Rochester has served Ristolainen well.
“Rasmus is a great player and I’m really happy to see him up here again. I thought he played pretty good when he was up here last time, too,” Tallinder said. “For him to go down there, play a lot – way more than he played when he was up here – and just in key situations. That helps a young defenseman to develop. I think it’s all positive for him.”
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel will also play as he fills in for Alexander Sulzer, who sustained an upper-body injury on Thursday. Sulzer will miss at least a week.
Jhonas Enroth will start for Buffalo. He’s started six of Buffalo’s last eight games. He’s 3-3-0 in those games with a .922 save percentage.
“Especially with the void Ryan Miller leaves, I think it’s Jhonas Enroth’s coming out party here. We’ve had two good goalies for a really long time and now Jhonas is getting a shot to see what we can do,” alternate captain Drew Stafford said. “Getting Michal in here as well, they’ve both played out of their minds with some of the shots we’ve given up.”
In his start on Thursday, Neuvirth stopped 51 shots, the most by a Sabres goaltender since Dominik Hasek made 55 saves on March 1, 1996.
In the seven games since the Sabres traded Miller, Sabres goaltenders have faced a combined total of 257 saves in seven games.
“Since the Ryan Miller trade, these two young kids were given an opportunity and it seems like they’re both battling for No. 1, which is great,” Nolan said. “There’s nothing like internal competition to bring the best out of any athlete. Right now they’re both battling hard and so far, knock on wood, it’ll continue.”
Puck drop between the Sabres and Islanders is scheduled for 7 p.m.