TORONTO – Defenseman Tyler Myers’ absence was glaring during the waning minutes of Tuesday’s 4-3 home loss to Philadelphia. The Buffalo Sabres sorely needed a sturdy presence to calm the game down as the Flyers scored three times.
Myers, who returned from a three-game suspension in Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs, had been showcasing a steady, aggressive game prior to his ban.
“I think a lot of that is just bringing a confidence that you’re going to control the play,” Myers said inside the Air Canada Centre prior to the game.
Last Tuesday’s snow postponement forced Myers to sit a little longer than he had originally expected for hitting New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus in the head.
“It’s huge to have him back,” interim Sabres coach Ted Nolan said.
Nolan wasn’t kidding. Myers skated a season-high 26:02 against the Leafs, recording as assist on Matt Ellis’ goal and moving the puck all over the ice.
“Tyler Myers, his first game back was probably one of his best games all season long,” Nolan said. “He played with a little pizazz. He played with some energy and he was very aggressive.”
Myers has said his second suspension in less than two years won’t make him change his style, something he repeated Wednesday.
“I’m not the kind of guy that’s reckless, looking to injure somebody,” he said. “I think on that play I was just trying to be aggressive. I think at my height and with my size it’s going to happen sometimes. You have to be aware of it, for sure. But I don’t think I want to change my game.”
Nolan said the Sabres “really like that mentality.”
“We don’t want him to lose that,” he said. “We actually want him to be a little bit more aggressive. When I say aggressive, it’s aggressive carrying the puck, it’s aggressive shooting, it’s aggressive skating. It’s all types of thing. If he plays aggressive, he’s going to be a great player.”
Myers skated beside Mike Weber, his partner before the suspension.
As he promised after Tuesday’s loss, Nolan switched up Buffalo’s lineup.
Winger Drew Stafford (upper body) returned from a four-game absence. Tough guy John Scott played after sitting as a healthy scratch Tuesday.
Marcus Foligno was “banged up” against the Flyers and sat. The winger’s day-to-day, Nolan said. Winger Linus Omark, who has one point in nine games, was also scratched.
“It’s just we need a different look … so we thought John would be better suited for a fourth-line position,” Nolan said about sitting Omark.
Defenseman Alexander Sulzer was scratched for Myers.
Stafford skated on the right wing beside Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson, replacing Zemgus Girgensons, who moved to the left wing with Ville Leino and Brian Flynn.
Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko reported to the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts on Wednesday, four days after initially refusing the assignment from the NHL.
The 19-year-old Russian said he’s not interested in playing at home in the KHL.
“It’s still the NHL for me,” Grigorenko told reporters in Quebec City. “It will always be the NHL. But right now, I just don’t have this opportunity. For some reasons, the Buffalo Sabres and me, it doesn’t work together for now. But I’ll keep pushing, I’ll keep trying, I won’t stop until I get there.”
According to Le Soleil’s Kathleen Lavoie, Grigorenko also said:
– He never asked to be traded.
– He never met new general manager Tim Murray.
– He thought the Sabres would play him a little bit after returning from the recent world junior championship.
– The last couple of days have been difficult for him.
Still, Grigorenko said Quebec’s “the only place I want to be for right now.”
“I’ll just work as hard as I can,” he said. “I want to win everything here.”
He added: “I just want to be the kind of player that people say, ‘This guy works really hard,’ because that would be really good for me.”
Believe it or not, Wednesday was the final meeting between the Sabres and Leafs this season. They played only five times under the NHL’s new scheduling format.
“It’s strange,” Myers said. “It has felt like we’ve played them quite a bit this year. But the fact that we’re finishing up our series this early it’s a different feeling.”