Nikita Zadorov could go back to junior. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Nikita Zadorov’s cut finger won’t force Sabres to keep rookie; Rasmus Ristolainen earns roster spot

BUFFALO – Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov cut his finger blocking a shot in Friday’s exhibition finale and is out about two weeks, coach Ron Rolston said.

“It just kind of smashed it on the tip,” Rolston said Saturday inside the First Niagara Center.

The 18-year-old rookie had the injury stitched up, Rolston said.

Zadorov signed a three-year, entry-level contract Wednesday, although general manager Darcy Regier hinted then the Sabres would likely send the youngster back to the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights soon.

Still, the Russian, the 16th overall pick this year, impressed the Sabres throughout training camp, scoring a goal in four preseason appearances.

Rolston said the Sabres don’t have to keep Zadorov because he’s hurt.

“Will we keep him?” Rolston asked. “We’ll have to discuss that. It’s two weeks. We could have him here and he could be working out and be on the ice because it’s not anything lower body.”

At least one 18-year-old will be in the Sabres’ opening-night lineup Wednesday in Detroit.

Rolston confirmed the obvious Saturday, acknowledging Rasmus Ristolainen, the eighth overall pick in June, has earned a spot.

“I would say yeah,” said Rolston, who noted the Finn was one of the team’s best defensemen in Friday’s 1-0 loss.

Ristolainen, who spent two seasons playing in SM-liiga, a Finnish men’s league, impressed the Sabres during five preseason appearances.

“I get a lot of chances to show my skills,” Ristolainen said minutes before Rolston announced he would be staying, “and I think I have done it, shown what kind of player I am. … So if I get in the lineup, I’m ready, for sure.”

Incredibly, the Sabres’ top pick has immediately made the NHL two straight years. That hasn’t happened since Phil Housley in 1982 and Tom Barrasso in 1983. Mikhail Grigorenko made it last season.

In other news, the Sabres sent Luke Adam to Rochester on Saturday. The winger has to clear waivers, however.

The Sabres must reach the 23-man roster limit by Monday. They currently have 25 healthy players – 15 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies – left on the team.

Center Johan Larsson, who didn’t play Friday and practiced without a line Saturday, could also be assigned to the AHL.

Rolston said rookie winger Joel Armia, who broke his hand Wednesday, didn’t need surgery. The Finn’s in a cast and out about five or six weeks.

The coach also plans on naming a new captain in the coming days.

Update: Adam has cleared waivers, according to TSN.

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