Mikhail Grigorenko was notified that he will be staying with the Buffalo Sabres just before their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday.
After two periods, Grigorenko was a minus-3 and having trouble defensively, while showing small spurts of offensive talent. Then, Grigorenko almost caused the roof of the First Niagara Center to be blown off when he scored the game tying goal in the third period.
"I didn't want to leave him where he was at," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after the Sabres 4-3 overtime loss Tuesday. "I wanted him to go out and try to make a difference."
Grigorenko and the Sabres know that the process of turning a teenager into an elite NHL player is no picnic. With Grigorenko's goal, he became the fifth youngest Sabre to score in the history of the franchise. Ruff says that he expects growing pains, for both Grigorenko and himself while he develops.
"I've talked with him at length about this process, developing and the growth and there's going to be pain, I'm going to feel pain, he's going to feel some," Ruff said. "But as an organization we feel that he can grow and help us win. He helped us get a point (Tuesday)."
If one thing is certain, it is that the fans of Buffalo are behind Grigorenko. When he served on the fourth line against Carolina Friday, fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure of the decision, assuming the demotion meant Grigorenko was headed back to Juniors. And when Grigorenko scored the goal Tuesday, the First Niagara Center exploded with excitement. Grigorenko then received another rise out of the crowd when his goal was announced. Fans gave him a standing ovation as they erupted yet again.
With all the excitement about Grigorenko it's important to note that he is still a rookie trying to find his place in the NHL. Ruff knows that there is plenty of work to do, especially defensively, but he also likes what he sees.
"He can be better," Ruff said. "But that's a pretty good night for him. Really to come back and get the goal the way he got it and get us a point. There's more than one mistake than losing his guy. Every goal, it's not just one guy."
Now that Grigorenko has scored his first career NHL goal, he will look to getting into an offensive groove to help the Sabres get back in the win column. Buffalo has dropped their last four decisions and is struggling to get offense, and their defense has been sloppy at best. Grigorenko and the Sabres will get another crack at a win when they travel to Boston to play the Bruins Thursday.
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