BUFFALO – Mikhail Grigorenko knew the Sabres were short one forward and had the Colorado Avalanche, a team led by Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy, his former junior coach, coming up on the schedule.
Grigorenko, who played in Tuesday’s 5-1 loss in Winnipeg before going back to Rochester, wanted to get recalled again badly. To his relief, the Sabres summoned the Russian again Saturday morning.
“I was hoping I would get called up, especially that game against Colorado against Patrick,” Grigorenko said Saturday morning prior to the Sabres’ 5-1 loss inside the First Niagara Center. “I saw him … at the morning skate. He said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ It was a big smile on my face just to see him. So I’m really excited.”
Later in the day, the Sabres recalled winger Johan Larsson to replace Matt Moulson, who was sent home sick.
Saturday was just Grigorenko’s second NHL game in 13 months. The 20-year-old, the No. 12 pick in 2012, played Friday in Rochester, where he has scored seven goals and 19 points in 29 games.
Following two disappointing seasons in which he shuttled between the NHL and junior, a strong training camp helped Grigorenko get his career on track.
“I was not waiting, but hoping I’m going to get called up,” Grigorenko said. “Finally, it happened. It made me feel like I kind of earned it or something. It made me feel really good.”
Now, he’s one of the Sabres’ top prospects. Again.
“I did a 360 turn on when I got here last year to this year, particularly in training camp and what he did with his off-ice conditioning,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “The way he performed during training camp, arguably he was one of our best players.”
The Sabres used some new lines Saturday. Grigorenko centered Larsson and Chris Stewart. Cody Hodgson moved from center back to the left wing with Brian Flynn and Brian Gionta. Drew Stafford replaced Moulson on the left wing with Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis.
Meanwhile, defenseman Josh Gorges (left pinky) returned from a two-game absence. Defenseman Tyson Strachan (lower body) sat out for the fifth time in the last seven games.
Nolan said forward Cody McCormick (lower body) could play tonight in Boston or Tuesday in Detroit. Defenseman Mike Weber (knee surgery) is “real close” and could also play before Christmas.