Sabres giving Griffith opportunity to jump from minor-league star to NHLer - The Buffalo News

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Sabres giving Griffith opportunity to jump from minor-league star to NHLer

Few things are more deflating for bubble players than not getting a chance. Whether they make the roster or not, they want an opportunity to show what they can do.

Seth Griffith has no complaints.

The winger is one of just two Sabres to play in both exhibition games, joining forward Justin Bailey. It wouldn't be a surprise if Griffith is in the lineup again Friday when Buffalo visits Toronto in Ricoh Coliseum (7:30 p.m., 550 AM).

"They're obviously looking at me," Griffith said Thursday. "I just want to make sure I'm bringing my game to the table every night, working hard every night, giving 100 percent and not having any regrets."

So far, things have been going well. They might get even better.

Griffith scored in the opening game and picked up a primary assist during the second. Those points came while playing left wing in the bottom six. He practiced as the top-line right winger Thursday, skating with center Ryan O'Reilly and left wing Benoit Pouliot.

"I'm not looking too much into it, but if I get the chance to play with them it'd be great," the 24-year-old said in HarborCenter. "Hopefully, I can show them what I have."

What the Sabres have at the moment is a "tweener." Griffith has been too good for the American Hockey League but unproductive in the NHL.

He has 202 points in 203 AHL games, including 66 goals. In 58 NHL games, he has six goals and 16 points.

Entering his fifth professional season, it's time to show he can make the leap.

"It's just consistency every night, especially going from the American Hockey League to the NHL," Griffith said. "In the AHL, it seems like you can get 20 chances a night. In the NHL, you've really got to bear down when it's your chance because really good scoring opportunities only come maybe once every couple games.

"I think it's really about creating those opportunities yourself, bringing pucks to the net and just going hard every night."

The two plays that put Griffith on the score sheet were impressive. He finished a two-on-one with Evan Rodrigues against Carolina, getting into perfect shooting position to bury the pass.

Griffith helped the Sabres tie Pittsburgh with less than three minutes left Tuesday, knocking defenseman Olli Maatta out of the way during a race for the puck and putting his pass on the tape of driving Matt Tennyson.

Despite being a small forward at 5-foot-9 and 191 pounds, Griffith needs to keep making those plays to stick with Buffalo.

"When the battle requires a competitive nature, he's got to get in there," coach Phil Housley said. "Everybody battles in their own way. Heavier guys can play a heavy game. Smaller guys have got to find a way to compete for loose pucks and win battles. We'll see that moving forward in the next couple games.

"I just want to see his speed and tenaciousness on the puck. He made a nice play on that tying goal at Penn State. He's got good vision. He's got to use it more."

While making the Sabres is Griffith's main goal – he signed a one-year deal that pays $650,000 whether he's in Buffalo or Rochester – the secondary objective is finding a home. He had way too many last year.

He started his fourth season in the Bruins' organization, but Boston waived him after four games. Toronto claimed him, then waived him a month later. Florida picked him up. He skated in 21 games with the Panthers, including time on a line with Jaromir Jagr and Aleksander Barkov, but he got waived again after no goals and five assists.

The Maple Leafs reclaimed him and sent him to the minor-league Marlies, where he finished the season with 10 goals and 44 points in 38 games. Griffith had another two goals and nine points in 11 playoff appearances.

"It wears on you," Griffith said of the moves. "You want to feel comfortable. I was in the hotel the whole year. Even a hotel, it's not really your own space, right? You've got maids coming in and out, and you're seeing new people every day.

"It's a tough situation, but I think I've grown as a player and a person from it. … Hopefully, I can get my own place this year."

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