Nikita Zadorov wants to play for the Sabres for the rest of his life. John Scott won’t be playing with Buffalo for awhile.
The rise of Zadorov and impending disappearance of Scott stood out Wednesday during yet another loss by the Sabres, a 5-2 defeat by Boston that dropped the sorry Sabres to 1-9-1. The folks in First Niagara Center who bothered to stick around until the end again aimed their anger toward General Manager Darcy Regier by calling for his firing.
Amidst the rage, bitterness and disappointment, Zadorov has emerged as a bright spot and possible changer of blueprints.
The plan was all but etched in stone. The Sabres would flatter him with an extended look during training camp, then send the 18-year-old back to juniors to further his rapid development.
Zadorov is laying waste to that plan.
One game after looking solid in his professional debut, Zadorov scored on his first NHL shot to give Buffalo its highlight. The teenager again impressed at both ends of the rink, putting into question a return to London of the Ontario Hockey League.
“I’m really happy here,” said Zadorov, selected 16th overall in this year’s draft. “I want to stay here all my life.”
The Sabres have a nine-game tryout period before they need to make a decision on whether to keep him this season.
“They just told me if you stay here just play hard every shift and practice hard,” Zadorov said. “We’ll see what coaches think and Darcy about that. I just do my job.”
The Bruins probably won’t remember Zadorov or his goal, but they will remember Scott’s hit to the head of Loui Eriksson. The Sabres’ enforcer was ejected with 14:11 left after coming from the side and knocking Eriksson woozy on an illegal blast that will earn supplemental discipline from the department of player safety. Eriksson stayed overnight in Buffalo for observation, the Bruins said.
“He’s there to do two things: to fight and to hurt,” Boston coach Claude Julien said of Scott. “He did both of those things.”
The Sabres said Scott was unavailable for comment. Coach Ron Rolston refused to comment.
The Sabres are more than happy to talk about Zadorov. He unfurled a teeth-filled smile on the bench after his milestone, a goal that showed his aggressive nature. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound defenseman accepted a pass at the top of the Bruins’ zone and took off. He skated around forward Carl Soderberg and was open at the bottom of the right faceoff circle.
Zadorov’s backhand slipped past Boston goaltender Chad Johnson on the far side, giving the defenseman a goal on his first NHL shot. At 18 years, 6 months, Zadorov became the second-youngest player behind Pierre Turgeon to score for the Sabres.
“It was like the goalie didn’t see where I was shooting, and I scored,” said Zadorov, who isn’t shy at either end of the ice. “I’m not afraid to play hockey.”
Boston took leads of 2-0 and 3-1, but Zadorov sent the Sabres into the final period within a goal.
They fell apart – badly. The Bruins’ Torey Krug scored twice to put the Sabres away as Boston outshot the home team, 13-2, in the final 20 minutes.
The announced crowd of 17,645 streamed toward the exits when Krug made it 5-2 with 10:18 left. Once again, it seemed the only ones who stuck around did so to make known their displeasure with team management.
The Sabres get to escape today. They’ll board their charter for the start of a two-game swing through Florida. The next home game is Monday againts the Lindy Ruff-coached Dallas Stars. Co-captain Steve Ott hopes for more than what happened Wednesday.
“We didn’t match them,” Ott said. “A veteran-based team just took over the game and just kind of steamrolled us in the third.”