BUFFALO – If you enjoyed watching Sabres rookie Nikita Zadorov thump opponents during his NHL debut, get ready to see more of the 18-year-old Russian tonight against the gritty Boston Bruins.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston plans to play the 16th overall pick in June more than the 11:01 he skated in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Colorado.
“Matchup-wise, he’s got size, and he’s physical,” Rolston said this morning inside the First Niagara Center. “He had six hits last game, led our team physically. He’s a guy that can clear people out in front. So it’ll be another real good challenge for him.”
The 1-8-1 Sabres dressed seven defensemen last game to “protect” Zadorov’s minutes, Rolston said. Six will likely play tonight.
Defenseman Jamie McBain, Zadorov’s partner Saturday, skated with rookie Rasmus Ristolainen this morning, meaning they could sit tonight. Forward Kevin Porter would return.
Zadorov skated beside Mike Weber this morning.
“I think he’s a really good defenseman,” Zadorov said. “He plays really physical hockey like me. I think we’re going to play good tonight.”
He added: “I’m excited. It’s my dream to play in the NHL. I’m playing tonight against one of the top teams in the league.”
In other lineup news, Ryan Miller will start his fourth straight game in goal.
Update: Bruins backup goalie Chad Johnson will start tonight, his first nod this season.