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Grigorenko gets the call and will see big minutes as No. 2 center

This will be a great chance for Mikhail Grigorenko to show what he can do for the Sabres. On a scoring line. No grinders. And it may be his last chance.

The 20-year-old got the call from Rochester Thursday and was immediately installed as the center on Buffalo's second line during practice at HarborCenter between Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta. That's where he'll be for Friday night's game in Ottawa.

"I'll just try to play my game and do what I did this year in Rochester, create opportunities on offense," Grigorenko said. "I was really excited when I saw a white jersey along with Marcus and Brian. It's a really great opportunity for me to play with those guys."

Girgorenko, Buffalo's No. 1 pick in 2012, has one goal and one assist in 12 NHL games this year. He has four goals and 10 points in 55 games the last three seasons. His best work as a pro came this year in Rochester, with 11 goals and 21 assists for 32 points in 39 games.

This is the final year of his entry-level contract and Grigorenko is a restricted free agent after the season. He might also be a key trade chip for the Sabres, so they would certainly like to see him play well during this stretch for the benefit of other teams' eyes as well.

Grigorenko missed a month with a knee injury but has played two games in the AHL since his return and said the knee is no issue. He scored goal No. 11 in Wednesday night's shootout loss at Utica.

"Last night he said he felt much better, had a little bit more jump in his legs," said coach Ted Nolan. "As far as practice is concerned today, I thought he skated as well as I've seen him skate. Hopefully he's ready."

The Sabres' top line currently has Phil Varone between Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis. Then comes the Grigorenko unit. Johan Larsson is between Cody Hodgson and Nic Deslauriers while the fourth line has Matt Ellis centering Tim Schaller and Jerry D'Amigo.

In other news from Nolan:

---The coach said it's looking more uncertain if Zemgus Girgensons will return this season. Girgensons took a shot off the foot last week in Columbus and his multi-week timetable takes him close to the April 11 finale. The Sabres may not bring him back if he's ready and there's only a couple of games to play.

---Zac Dalpe was not at practice as he attended to a personal family matter. Nolan did not know if he would be on the trip to Ottawa and Washington.

---Nolan confirmed Chad Johnson will get his first Buffalo start in goal Friday and said he's prepared to ride either Johnson or Anders Lindback if one hits a hot streak anywhere close to what Jhonas Enroth or Michal Neuvirth put up this season.

 

 

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