BUFFALO – As the Latvian national team’s coach, Ted Nolan had one center on his roster for the 2013 world championship.
“We a hand a bunch of players, but no natural center ice men,” Nolan, the Sabres’ new interim coach, said this morning inside the First Niagara Center.
So when Sabres rookie Zemgus Girgensons finished his first professional season in Rochester last year, a campaign he spent playing wing, Nolan put the 19-year-old Latvian at center, his natural position.
Nolan will put Girgensons, a winger all season, back at center tonight for his coaching debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“He one was one of our better players playing against some of the best teams in the world,” Nolan said. “We’ll watch him grow, and the fans of Buffalo are going to really appreciate him when he gets his maturity going.”
Nolan added: “He can skate. He’s a powerful kid.”
Girgensons, who has one goal and five points in 19 games, doesn’t mind moving to the middle.
“I already know everything about that,” he said. “It’s not that complicated.”
Girgensons isn’t the only player Nolan’s moving. Ville Leino, a winger the Sabres tried making a center two years ago, will switch back tonight. Leino played center early during his professional career in Finland.
“We want to put these players where they feel comfortable so there’s no excuses,” Nolan said.