Found January 24, 2013 on
Queen City Sports:
While the 2013 season has just gotten underway, time is already running out for the Sabres organization to make a decision on rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko. In this lockout shortened season teams only have five games with which to evaluate their junior players before they must either return them to the CHL, or keep them with the big club for the duration of the season. Heading into tonight’s contest at Carolina Mikhail Grigorenko has played two games in blue and gold as a bottom six center and has yet to register a point. Here are the three keys that will determine whether or not we see Mikhail Grigorenko in Buffalo beyond this weekend.
1.) Ice Time
Despite being the only Sabres player with a negative plus/minus rating (-1), Grigorenko has not looked out of place in his own end thus far. Defensively responsible as he is, he deserves the opportunity to get into a flow offensively. Averaging 12:06 minutes per game is 9th out of the top 9 forwards. Meanwhile Jochen Hecht is averaging over 16 minutes per game, as Lindy Ruff has favored the veteran in critical situations over Grigorenko. The only way to find out if Mikhail is ready for that moment is to give him those extra shifts late in tight games to prove himself. Lindy needs to take advantage of these next three games to find out what he has in Grigorenko, and he can’t properly evaluate the young Russian if he’s stuck on the bench.
Ville Leino was beginning to develop chemistry with Grigorenko prior to being felled by a leg injury.(Getty Images)
2.) Ville Leino and Nathan Gerbe
No your eyes are not deceiving you, I am actually proclaiming that the presence of Ville Leino in the lineup is a positive thing for both Grigorenko and the Sabres. In the first two games Mikhail has been paired primarily with Steve Ott on one side and a rotation of wingers on the other side most notably Patrick Kaleta. In the mini training camp prior to the season starting Grigorenko had begun to develop some chemistry with Ville Leino on the other side until Leino went down with a lower body injury right before the home opener. Mikhail is a talented offensive player and to maximize his potential for success he needs to be surrounded by similarly offensive minded forwards, not fourth line grinders. Getting a healthy Ville Leino back in the lineup, or perhaps a now healthy Nathan Gerbe on his wing might be the sparkplug that kicks Grigorenko into a breakout performance.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Mikhail’s game thus far has been his performance in the faceoff dot. This Buffalo team does not have Paul Gaustad anymore to come in and win every important draw, someone has to step up win big faceoffs for this squad. So far among the 4 players who have attempted a minimum of 15 draws, Grigorenko leads the Sabres in Faceoff percentage having won 56.2% of his 16 attempts. This facet of Mikhail’s game is very important to Buffalo as the Sabres top two centers, Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis, are both hovering around 40% in the dot. Forward Steve Ott, who has attempted 11 faceoffs on the season has won 7 of them, or 63.6%. Having a line with both Ott and Girgorenko on the ice ensures that even if one of them gets kicked out of the circle the Sabres have a guy out there who can win a big draw if needed. On a team that currently ranks dead last in the NHL with a FO% of 42% that is very important. Continued success in the dot by Mikhail in these next three contests might help sway the pendulum in his favor in regards to staying in Buffalo.
Will Grigorenko be in Buffalo after Sunday’s game in Washington? Let me know your thoughts on twitter: @SabreHess
The post Three Keys for Grigorenko to Stick appeared first on Queen City Sports.
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