Mikhail Grigorenko skated just two shifts after the first period Friday. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Ruff on Grigorenko’s fourth appearance: ‘I burned up a game’

AMHERST – Lindy Ruff couldn’t hide his disgust this morning inside the Northtown Center.

The Buffalo Sabres coach sighed before acknowledging the obvious.

“It’s like burning a game,” Ruff said about skating 18-year-old rookie Mikhail Grigorenko a career-low 6:48 in Friday’s 3-1 loss to Carolina.

The Russian center can play five times before the first-year of his entry level contract kicks in. Each appearance is precious in the Sabres’ evaluation.

The Sabres wasted Grigorenko’s fourth game, playing him sparingly mostly beside tough guy John Scott and Nathan Gerbe on the fourth line.

“I like where this kid is going,” Ruff said. “I like where his game has been. Even his early shifts I thought were good shifts. They had the makings of doing something good.”

With Ruff mostly matching up Jochen Hecht’s line against Hurricanes star Eric Staal, Grigorenko played zero shifts in the third period and just two of his seven after the opening 20 minutes.

“Then I got to a point he hadn’t played for so long I didn’t think it was fair to throw him in a tough situation,” Ruff said. “Your legs aren’t going. I burned up a game really is what I did.”

So what do the Sabres do now?

Grigorenko, who centered Steve Ott and Drew Stafford this morning, will hit his limit if he plays Sunday in Washington.

Ruff said if winger Thomas Vanek (muscle strain) can play, then Grigorenko could possibly sit.

Even watching games and practicing with the Sabres is probably a better option than returning the youngster to the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts.

As promised, Ruff used new lines this morning.

Tyler Ennis centered Hecht and Patrick Kaleta. Marcus Foligno subbed for Vanek on the left wing with Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville, the potent combination Ruff plans to keep intact. Gerbe, Scott and Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick also skated together.

Ruff’s anticipating Vanek, who already has three goals and nine points, will play.

Two straight losses to Carolina had Ruff barking out orders on the ice this morning.

“We played pond hockey there,” he said later.

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