Buffalo Sabres Training Camp Notes: Grigorenko Impresses; Finley to Islanders

 

Anne-Marie Sorvin – US PRESSWIRE

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With the Buffalo Sabres kicking off training camp yesterday, the spotlight shone brightest on a few new faces in the blue and gold.

Fresh faces Mikhail Grigorenko and Steve Ott kicked their Sabres careers off skating on the same line for the first day. They were joined by Ville Leino.

Coach Lindy Ruff said in his post-practice presser that he was impressed with Grigorenko and his ability to use his body and size to shield pucks and gain position on NHL players. This will go a long way toward earning Grigorenko a spot on the Sabres to start the season. While Ruff also said that Grigorenko was obviously not there to be a huge physical presence – he’s there for his “playmaking skills and vision” – his ability to withstand the physicality of the NHL game will likely be one of the biggest factors in Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier’s decision to keep him in the NHL.

As was discussed in my offensive line predictions, having Grigorenko with Ott and Leino will only help him with his learning curve and set him up to make a meaningful contribution as an 18-year old.

TJ Brennan will share Grigorenko’s spotlight in tonight’s scrimmage at the First Niagara Center as Ruff will be able to see what they can do at game speed. Brennan likely has the inside line on the sixth defensive spot with his stellar play in the AHL all season.

The scrimmage starts at 5:30pm tonight and is open to the public.

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Defenseman Joe Finley, placed on waivers yesterday to be eligible to play in Rochester, was claimed by the New York Islanders earlier today.

Finley, at 6’8″, 260 lbs., is a hulking defenseman that has never been shy to throw the mitts. He played five games for the Sabres last year in injury relief and was a minus-3. In 93 games for the Amerks he has posted 11 points and 224 penalty minutes and was plus-10.

Finley’s loss will only be felt by the Sabres if they run into the injury issues they did last season as he was likely the 10th or 11th defenseman on the depth chart, but he played solidly in his NHL call-ups last year and could be missed if needed.

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Quick Hits:

The top six forwards held no surprises in practice yesterday, with Jason Pominville, Cody Hodgson and Thomas Vanek manning one line and Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford the other. Foligno said he felt great and thinks he may have a slight advantage playing more than 30 games in the AHL in the system over the other guys.

Jochen Hecht was back with the team and got on the ice about 40 minutes late, presumably getting his contract signed before he hopped on. He will likely skate with John Scott and Pat Kaleta while Cody McCormick and Nathan Gerbe sit out as they are not cleared for contact but are able to practice.

The Sabres sold over 31,000 tickets yesterday when they went on sale to season ticket holders. Talk about a hockey starved town.

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