BUFFALO – For the time being at least, top prospect Mikhail Grigorenko is still with the Sabres.
The 18-year-old practiced this morning inside the First Niagara Center. It’s unclear whether he’ll play Tuesday against Toronto, the sixth appearance that would activate the first year of his entry-level contract.
“We don’t have to,” coach Lindy Ruff said today when asked if the Sabres had decided whether to keep the Russian or send him back to the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts.
Beyond the center’s play, which Ruff liked while skating him a career-high 17:10 during Sunday’s 3-2 loss in Washington, the Sabres are weighing several other factors.
“There’s lots of issues, and part of it is we’ve got issues at center with winning draws and the youth at center ice and whether Ville (Leino) can come back in and play,” Ruff said. “That’s all part of the discussions there with center ice.”
Does Grigorenko think he’s done enough to stick around?
“I’m not the coach,” the first-round pick said. “I will not decide if I stay or not. I think I did everything I could. I’ve done a lot of work.”
The Sabres could also scratch Grigorenko before his sixth game. Practice time and watching from the press box might be beneficial.
“That’s one of the considerations,” Ruff said about sitting Grigorenko. “I thought he held up very good in (Sunday’s) game, a great opportunity to score.”
Grigorenko understands all of the Sabres’ options.
“They could tell me today, they could tell me tomorrow, they could keep me for one week and practice,” Grigorenko said. “They could do a lot of things. So I’m ready for everything. Everything they will say, I would accept this.”
Grigorenko acknowledged “it’s hard but it’s OK” not knowing his fate.
“I’m trying hard not to think about it,” he said.
So far, Grigorenko’s pointless. Ruff thought he played his best game Sunday, though.
“I think he was good with the puck,” Ruff said. “Defensively, there’s some adjustment from the way they play in junior (to the) way we play. We’re working with him.”
Meanwhile, Ruff thinks winger Thomas Vanek (muscle strain) could play Tuesday after sitting in Washington. The Austrian, who already has three goals and nine points, skated during this morning’s optional workout.
“I would say I’m optimistic about him playing,” Ruff said.
In other injury news, Leino, who’s battling a hip problem, hasn’t skated in about a week. Despite some new treatment, “Progress seems slow,” Ruff said.
“He’s just in the ‘OK’ category,” the coach said.
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