EDMONTON, Alberta – Defenseman Nikita Zadorov is off the suspended list and was back on the practice ice Wednesday for the Buffalo Sabres. But he’s not getting back in the lineup Thursday night.
Coach Ted Nolan has decided Zadorov is going to sit out the game against the Edmonton Oilers after he already missed Tuesday’s 4-1 loss in Calgary. Zadorov was suspended for that one after returning late following the All-Star Game from a vacation in the Dominican Republic with his girlfriend.
Zadorov, who was reinstated Wednesday, explained the flight home was oversold and he was bumped. There were no other flights available and he could not return until Monday, thus missing Buffalo’s first practice after the break and the flight to Calgary.
“I shouldn’t do that,” Zadorov said. “I should make the trip a day early and have a safe day, an extra day. It’s kind of my mistake. I shouldn’t do that. Next time I have to be safer.”
Nolan said Zadorov will “more than likely” return to the lineup Friday night in Vancouver.
“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.”
“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.”
Nolan was impressed that Zadorov met with the team here and issued an apology to the players and coaching staff as a group.
“And it wasn’t a standard ‘I’m sorry,’ ” noted Nolan. “It was heartfelt.”
“He’s a good kid,” said fellow blueliner Tyler Myers. “I made mistakes when I was that age and guys still make mistakes at times. He’s going to be fine. He’s been playing really well for us. When he gets that chance to step back in, you just try to help him as much as possible grow as a player on and off the ice as well.”
First notice that Zadorov’s suspension had been lifted came when General Manager Tim Murray appeared on his weekly interview Wednesday on WGR Radio. Murray said it would then be up to the coaching staff when the 19-year-old would return to the ice.
“I think it’s just the right thing to do with the kid to teach him a lesson,” Murray said. “I think it’s the right thing to do with our veteran players to show them we’re paying attention. The kid got caught in a situation where it really wasn’t his fault, but don’t get caught in those situations.
“We’re trying to change the culture here. The kid did not do this purposely but there’s still a lesson to be learned. I hope the rest of our prospects are paying attention. We want to be good to our prospects and our young players but there comes a time where right is right and wrong is wrong. I felt this was the right decision.”
Zadorov said he was unaware of any thought about filing a union grievance to recoup the lost salary from the suspension. Murray made it clear the Sabres don’t expect him to do that.
“There’s great lessons to be learned by young guys that make them better,” Murray said. “If they grieve it to recoup a day’s pay, that’s their prerogative. But I can tell you if it was my kid, I wouldn’t allow them to grieve it. I would say, ‘Take this like a man and learn from it.’ That’s simply what we’re trying to do.”
Even though the Sabres lost Tuesday’s game, it was one of the most memorable of Myers’ career. The defenseman played his first game in Calgary, the town he grew up and played minor hockey in, after he missed three previous trips due to illness, injury or NHL suspension. Myers had more than a dozen friends and family members at the Saddledome watching.
“It was pretty exciting, six years in the making,” Myers said here Wednesday. “It really took a while but it was great to finally play in front of friends and family. It was a good feeling. It was nice to see some old faces from the summer and to spend some time after the game.”
Myers said he was relieved to get through the Sabres’ Jan. 18 loss at Detroit unscathed knowing the Calgary game was the first one after the All-Star break.
“I figured, “Now, I just have to get through the break,” he said. “I was pretty happy to know I was healthy coming in. I think my group was anticipating it even more than me.”
Nolan said Jhonas Enroth will play goal Thursday, and it’s possible Matt Hackett could get his first start of the season Friday in Vancouver.
The Sabres did not make any changes to their forward lines at practice Wednesday. Zadorov skated on the extra defense pairing with Andre Benoit, who was a healthy scratch in Calgary.