BUFFALO – The Sabres are “discussing all possibilities” to find 19-year-old prospect Mikhail Grigorenko playing time, interim coach Ted Nolan said Tuesday.
That means the Sabres could loan the center, a healthy scratch the last two games, to Russia for the world junior championship later this month if he’s invited. He could also get sent back to the junior Quebec Remparts.
“We’re not 100 percent sure what we’re going to do,” Nolan said following practice inside the First Niagara Center.
Nolan said Grigorenko, who’s sat five of the last eight games, has “got to be playing.”
“I’ve never seen a player develop not playing,” he said.
Grigorenko’s name wasn’t on a training camp roster Russia released for the tournament Tuesday. Defenseman Nikita Zadorov, a prospect the Sabres just set back to junior, earned an invite.
Grigorenko said he’s open to playing in the world juniors if Russia contacts him. He would discuss it with Nolan and Pat LaFontaine, the president of hockey operations.
“I think together we would’ve decided if I should go or not,” said Grigorenko, who represented Russia the last two years. “But for now, they didn’t contact me.”
Grigorenko added: “I think the Russians have a great chance to win the gold this year. I would’ve been happy to go.”
Clearly, the Sabres’ new regime wants Grigorenko to go somewhere and thrive.
Eight games into his tenure, Nolan said the Sabres are “starting to turn that table.”
“The guys are starting to earn it,” he said about roster spots.
Others have earned a seat in the press box. Defenseman Jamie McBain has been scratched the last four games.
“McBain, for example, he’s got to wait for somebody to slip back before he can jump back in,” Nolan said. “It’s not just, ‘It’s your turn.’”
The streak ended 4:57 into the third period of the Sabres’ 1-0 overtime loss Saturday.
In his 53rd NHL game, forward Brian Flynn was whistled for hooking New Jersey’s Steve Bernier, his first NHL penalty.
How did Flynn, who takes a regular shift, avoid getting penalized until his second NHL season?
“I don’t know, probably because I’m not that physical,” Flynn said. “That’s how most of the penalties are in the league … finishing hard checks and getting an elbow or board or something like that. Stick penalty, obviously, (I’m) a little lucky probably for a while not to get one. But it’s going to happen.”
It’s not a coincidence Flynn played so long without an infraction, Nolan said.
“That’s Lady Byng material,” said Nolan about the trophy given for gentlemanly conduct. “He plays the game right. Rarely is he in a position where he has to lean over and hook someone and out of position on an angle. He’s a really intelligent player. So I can understand why he doesn’t get penalties.”
The Sabres have asked Americans defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who played 19 NHL games earlier this season, if he wants to represent Finland at world juniors, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Ristolainen said yes, although he’s not sure if he’ll be allowed.
The 19-year-old, the No. 8 pick in June, is out with a possible concussion this week after being sucker-punched Friday.
Alexander Sulzer (undisclosed injury) missed practice again Tuesday. If the defenseman can practice this morning, he could play Thursday, Nolan said.