BUFFALO – One by one they danced, each Sabres rookie taking a turn at center ice as teammates laughed and cheered following Friday’s practice inside the First Niagara Center.
Johan Larsson showcased, well, all sorts of crazy moves, including some breakdancing. Zemgus Girgensons twerked like Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards.
“Twerking on skates, that’ll be the first time,” Sabres winger Tyler Ennis said.
When you’re 1-7-1 and hours removed from a shutout home loss, positive energy must be created.
“Get a little energy going and have some fun, a rookie dance-off,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said.
So Mikhail Grigorenko moved a la Vincent Vega, John Travolta’s character from “Pulp Fiction.” Brian Flynn slid into the circle and played his hockey stick like a guitar. Nikita Zadorov did some sort of Ukrainian squat-kick.
“That was nice,” Ennis said. “A lot of guys showed a lot of flair.”
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said “sometimes you add something that loosens things up.”
“Everybody can recognize it’s a little tense here,” he said. “It was a fun chance to embarrass the rookies. At any turn we’re going to take advantage of that. You only get one crack at them when they’re rookies.”
At the end, Girgensons and Larsson danced together.
“A lot of it is what we can bring,” Rolston said about the coaching staff. “But a lot of it’s what they bring to the room, too. We want them to have fun with it, and right now, guys needs a little bit of that.”
So which rookie cuts the best rug?
“I thought Girgensons won it,” Ennis said. “I think he was moving pretty good out there, looked a little bit like Miley Cyrus.”
The Sabres, who host coach Patrick Roy and the upstart Colorado Avalanche tonight, looked a little bit like a good team Tuesday, beating the Islanders 4-3 in a road shootout. But they quickly reverted back to their old ways Thursday, getting outshot 19-7 in the first period and falling 3-0 to Vancouver.
Barely two weeks into the season, the Sabres are a mess, arguably the NHL’s worst team.
“Coming off our first win, you want a different response, and our response was we were completely outmatched at the get-go,” Sabres co-captain Steve Ott said.
That’s been a disturbing trend from the rebuilding club all season. So far, opponents have outshot the Sabres 127-74 during the first period and outscored them 11-1.
“The way we approach a game, we haven’t been good enough,” Miller said. “I don’t think we’ve been so far off that we haven’t been able to get points out of some games. We’ve come down to the wire. We’ve just let things kind of slide. We just have put together some smaller pieces and stay in games longer.
“We’re not going to win every one we stay in, but we’re going to get points out of them and start trying to play with the lead a little bit more, we’re going to start getting our fair share of points.”
The Sabres, of course, have their fair share of rookies.
Zadorov, the 16th overall pick in June, will make his NHL debut soon, Rolston said, becoming the sixth one to dress this season.
The 18-year-old defenseman, out since hurting his finger during the preseason finale, has been practicing with the Sabres.
“He’s getting there,” Rolston said about Zadorov’s recovery.
When will Zadorov, who skated beside spare defender Jamie McBain on Friday, play?
“Any time is possible,” Rolston said.
Girgensons practiced fully Friday sporting a full plastic shield and will return tonight, Rolston said. The winger missed one game after taking a puck off the face Tuesday.
Cody McCormick didn’t practice Friday after blocking a shot in Thursday. The forward was limping around and is day-to-day, Rolston said.