Johan Larsson’s comments last month upset Sabres coach Ted Nolan. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Johan Larsson ready for fresh opportunity with Sabres

BUFFALO – As the Sabres trickled out on the ice Sunday morning, coach Ted Nolan and winger Johan Larsson skated around and talked about the prospect’s latest recall.

Upon getting demoted to Rochester in early January, Larsson voiced his displeasure with having to skate on the fourth line in the NHL, a complaint that irked Nolan.

“Yeah, I was upset,” Nolan said. “Players play. The tail can’t wag the dog.”

So Nolan gave Larsson a direct message during their brief chat prior to the Sabres’ 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers inside the First Niagara Center.

“Just play,” Nolan said. “Players got to play, and don’t worry about nothing else, who you’re playing with and how much you’re playing. Just play.”

The Sabres recalled Larsson, a center with the Americans, because a lower-body injury shelved winger Patrick Kaleta.

The 22-year-old Larsson played on the fourth line again Sunday, this time on the left wing beside center Matt Ellis and Cody Hodgson, who returned from a two-game benching. Larsson skated a game-low six minutes, 40 seconds.

Larsson has been a strong AHL player the last two years, compiling 29 goals and 78 points in 92 games with the Amerks, including 14 goals 37 points in 41 contests this season. But his NHL production has been meager. The Swede has only one goal and six points in 41 appearances.

Considering he was acquired by the team’s old regime and might be in Nolan’s doghouse, Larsson could be running out of time to impress the Sabres.

What must Larsson do to break through?

“I don’t really know, probably produce more, I guess,” he said.

Larsson still believes he has an opportunity here. The Sabres will likely deal more players before the March 2 deadline. More moves could create a regular spot for Larsson.

“I’m just going to wait and see what happens,” Larsson said.

Did the Sabres ask Larsson to keep quiet about his linemates?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t really talk about that.”

Kaleta had played 21 consecutive games, a long streak for the oft-injured agitator. The Angola native, who practiced Saturday, will be evaluated again and sidelined a “little while,” Nolan said.

“He was trying to skate through it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the lower-body injury Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges has been nursing could sideline the veteran for a while.

Nolan wouldn’t say Gorges’ season is over, however.

“I’m not too sure about that,” he said. “We’ll see. He’s going to get a second opinion.”

Nolan wanted defenseman Zach Bogosian, part of Wednesday’s trade with Winnipeg, to play some big minutes in his Sabres debut.

“He’s going to get thrown right into the fire,” Nolan said. “He’s going to play a lot of minutes. Plus he’s a big boy. I’m quite sure he’s used to those minutes. Maybe he’s going to look at it a whole different way. Maybe he wasn’t getting as much minutes as he thought before. So there won’t be (any) question about minutes here.”

Why did Bogosian pick No. 47 with the Sabres?

“Four and 44 were gone,” he said. “My favorite player growing up was (Chris) Chelios, and he wore seven. So four and seven, I guess that’s the meaning behind that one.”

Bogosian wore No. 44 with Winnipeg and No. 4 in Atlanta, where he briefly played with Chelios in 2009-10.

Nolan on Hodgson: “It’s up to guys what they want to do when they get on the ice. We’re hoping. It’s been a tough year for Cody, for sure. We just got to see if he fights through it.”

The two spoke on the ice Sunday morning, their first chat in more than a week.

“The hardest part about this business is players got to allow themselves to be coached,” Nolan said.

The Sabres played tribute videos for defenseman Tyler Myers and winger Drew Stafford, veterans they traded to Winnipeg on Wednesday.

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