Mikhail Grigorenko practiced with the Sabres today. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres going ‘back to the drawing board’ after NHL rejects Mikhail Grigorenko’s conditioning assignment

BUFFALO – Mikhail Grigorenko figured he’d be starting a two-week AHL conditioning assignment today. The 19-year-old Sabres prospect had already dropped his equipment off at the rink and checked into a Rochester hotel when a team front office member contacted him at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The NHL had rejected the assignment.

Grigorenko drove back to Buffalo and practiced with the Sabres today.

What happened?

“You read the rules and see how they work,” interim Sabres coach Ted Nolan said this afternoon following practice inside the First Niagara Center. “We thought we were doing it by the rule book.”

Nolan said Pat LaFontaine, the president of hockey operations, could have more information.

Read about conditioning rules here. It’s section 13.8.

“I needed to play,” Grigorenko said. “I lost a little bit of my conditioning, so I need to get it back.”

As a junior-age player, Grigorenko can’t be assigned to Rochester outright because of the NHL’s agreement with the Canadian Hockey League.

“He’s a great kid. He’s a nice young man,” Nolan said. “He’s just put in this predicament. It has nothing to do with him. We want to make sure we find the best solution to make him better.”

So what’s next for Grigorenko, a healthy scratch both games under Nolan? The Russian practiced today at left wing with Ville Leino and Marcus Foligno.

“We’ve only been here for six days,” Nolan said. “We talked about it and thought this could be one of the solutions we thought we could do in the meantime. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Now we have to go back to the drawing board and (see) what’s best for him to develop his skill and be a dominant player we all think he can be in this organization.”

Right now, the Quebec Remparts, Grigorenko’s junior team, have two import players, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League maximum. The Sabres could send him down after the league’s Jan. 7 trade deadline.

Grigorenko said the Sabres haven’t mentioned sending him to junior. Nolan isn’t sure if he’ll play him soon.

“I believe I’m ready to play in the NHL,” said Grigorenko, who scored two goals Nov. 8 in Anaheim.

In other news, winger Tyler Ennis will play Thursday after tweaking “a little something” Tuesday, Nolan said. Meanwhile, rookie Zemgus Girgensons has switched back to wing beside Steve Ott and Luke Adam, who was recalled from Rochester today with defenseman Brayden McNabb.

Adam has 13 goals and 18 points in 15 games. McNabb has two goals and points in 15 contests. Both will play in Philadelphia.

“He’s having a great year,” Nolan said about Adam. “When kids do that, they have to be rewarded. That’s what the American Hockey League’s all about. It’s not just going down there and seeing what happens. They have to be rewarded.”

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