BUFFALO – With 8:12 left in the second period of Sunday’s preseason opener, Sabres prospect Zemgus Girgensons grabbed Kevin Porter’s pass off the boards at the Montreal blue line and zoomed in down the right wing.
A second later, the Latvian whistled a shot by goalie Zachary Fucale’s glove from the faceoff dot, the second goal of his NHL preseason debut.
“I was pretty happy with myself,” Girgensons said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center. “Probably at the start of last season, the second goal I would’ve put in the netting up there, given a souvenir to a fan.”
Counting three scores in three AHL playoff games, Girgensons has five goals in his last four contests. He had six in 61 regular-season games with Rochester last season.
Clearly, the tenacious 19-year-old’s development began reaching a new level last spring. So far, he’s carried that into training camp.
“Watching him in the playoffs in Rochester, he had a lot more purpose to his game offensively,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. “So he was kind of playing with other players, playing off them – give and goes, what holes to jump in. Where early on it was more open the door and just go around and be physical and do his job. Not as much purpose.
“(Sunday) I saw a little more of that later game, the playoff game. Now, can he continue to do that as we move through the preseason and as these teams get better lineups? He’s going to be able to handle the physical part of things. He’s got good details. But can he continue that offensive confidence?”
Girgensons, the 14th overall pick in 2012, spent much of the summer focusing on his offense.
“I’ve been working on my shooting this summer,” Girgensons said. “It’s just about me burying my chances. I’ve had some problems in the past with that. I think I just have to put that behind.”
In other news, the Sabres sent five players – forwards Justin Bailey, Nicholas Baptiste, Justin Kea and Logan Nelson and defenseman Connor Boland – back to their junior clubs. The team has 56 players left in camp.
Check back later for a full story on Girgensons!