BUFFALO – In Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes, Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov was benched, skating only nine minutes, 46 seconds.
“Maybe 10 minutes too much,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center.
Expect the 19-year-old rookie to be scratched Saturday in Colorado. Nolan has clearly grown tired of the Russian’s poor work habits.
“When you’re going for certain things, the expectations and what you have to do has to be a certain level, and if you don’t do it, you’re not going to get better, I don’t care who you are,” Nolan said. “You look at Tyler Ennis, why he’s getting better, because he works at it. (Brian) Gionta, why he’s lasted 14 years and why he’s played the way he’s been, because he’s works at it.
“This is a perfect example for a young kid like Nikita. He’s got to work on his game to get better. He just can’t hope and rely on talent to get there.”
Zadorov, the No. 16 pick in 2013, has showcased some glimpses of future stardom in between bouts of immaturity this season.
He was suspended in January for missing a flight back from the Dominican Republic following the NHL All-Star break and benched in February for oversleeping and missing a team meeting.
Nolan and his staff worked with Zadorov to develop strong habits as he sat out early in the season. He was often the first player on the ice then. When Zadorov finally earned regular duty, he formed a strong tandem with Rasmus Ristolainen, the youngster picked eight spots before him.
“His was working for it, then all of a sudden his play took off,” Nolan said. “Then all of a sudden you get to play and you forget what got you there.”
Nolan wants Zadorov to practice better.
“He just has to learn to do that,” he said. “By no means do you say he’s not going to get there. But sometimes it takes a little while.”
Zadorov can play in the AHL next season, something Nolan believes “won’t hurt” him.