EDMONTON, Alberta -- Before you even talked to him, it was pretty easy to see Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov was minding his Ps and Qs at practice Wednesday in Rexall Place.
Zadorov was one of the first players on the ice and one of the last ones off in his first workout following the All-Star break. Zadorov was suspended from Tuesday night's game in Calgary for returning late from a Dominican vacation with his girlfriend when his flight home was oversold and he was bumped, forcing him to stay another day. He thus missed practice Monday and the team flight to Calgary.
"I shouldn't do that. I should make the trip a day early and have a safe day, an extra day," Zadorov said. "It's kind of my mistake. I shouldn't do that. Next time I have to be safer."
Zadorov gave a full apology to the team and coach Ted Nolan called it "heartfelt."
It wasn't, however, enough to move Nolan to put Zadorov back in the lineup for Thursday's Tankapalooza against the Edmonton Oilers in place of a struggling veteran like Andrej Meszaros. So why not play Zadorov? Nolan had a legitimate answer.
"Somebody does that, you don't just say 'sorry' and put him right back in," Nolan said. "I think it's the hierarchy of his situation. He just hopped on the ice one day for practice, off the ice eight days and I don't think it's fair to put anybody in that situation. At least we give him a couple days and put him back in."
Asked if Zadorov would play Friday in Vancouver, Nolan said "more than likely."
"I feel sorry right now and embarrassed but it is what it is," Zadorov said. "It's happened. You have to move forward. I'm here and I'm ready to go and help my team do the best."
Click the links below to hear audio from Nolan and Zadorov, who speaks English well but is still learning to process certain questions. The coach discusses his young defenseman, the current status of his team, and the perceptions of coaching this game when fans of both sides understandably think losing may be winning because of the draft lottery implications.