The Buffalo Sabres lost their season opener to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday by a 2-1 score, but there were a few good things the team should be able to take away. Goaltender Ryan Miller turned in a stellar performance with 32 saves while getting little help, and rookie Zemgus Girgensons made the most of his first shot at NHL time by scoring his first career goal on his first and only shot. The Sabres are still in rebuilding mode, and that will give a lot of their young players a chance to shine this season. As the highest-drafted player from Latvia in league history, Girgensons has a chance to make a name for himself if he can stick with the Sabres, and he already looks ready to contribute more than he did with the Rochester Americans in the AHL last season.
Girgensons played two seasons in the USHL with the Dubuque Fighting Saints before being drafted 14th overall by Buffalo in 2012. He scored 45 goals in his 100 games with Dubuque, but was unable to contribute much offensively in the AHL last season. Through 61 games, Girgensons had just six goals and 17 points. He joined Mikhail Grigorenko and Brian Flynn on the third line on Wednesday, and was the benefactor of a misplayed puck by Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard that deflected off Flynn’s stick and onto Girgenson’s stick blade. He saw just over 11 minutes of ice time, which was among the lowest of Buffalo’s forwards (and nearly all of it was at even strength), but if he continues to make the most of his time the Sabres should have more than a handful of opportunities for him this season.