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'Instagram model' Ristolainen is still Sabres' workhorse

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen this summer posted on Instagram a photo of himself working to flip a giant tire, his action figure biceps bulging from his sleeveless shirt.

Rambo didn’t have guns like that.

“Oh my God, this guy, he’s an Instagram model,” fellow defenseman Marco Scandella said. “It’s hilarious. I just chirp at him all the time. But he definitely works his (butt) off in the summer. That’s why he puts it up. That’s no joke. … That’s him day in, day out. He’s actually showing the real him.

“I just give him a hard time because it’s hilarious to see him with the perfect hair, working out, moving boulders. He trains in different ways.”

Three days after posting the tire photo – which Ristolainen paired that week with a video montage of himself lifting weights, running agility drills and sparring in his native Finland – the Sabres, as expected, selected defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft.

Ristolainen said the timing of his post in relation to the draft was mere coincidence.

“I tried this summer to be a little more active on the social media, and that’s it,” Ristolainen, the eighth overall pick in 2013, said. “I own a gym back home, so I try to share what kind of workouts we do. I don’t really want to post any selfies, so at least there’s some action pictures, workout pictures. I think those are a little better than (expletive) mirror selfies.”

There was a thought in some circles that Dahlin’s addition to the roster might cut into Ristolainen’s ice time, but so far this season, that hasn’t been the case.

Ristolainen led the Sabres in ice time for the third time in as many games Monday, logging 25 minutes and 40 seconds in Buffalo’s 4-2 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights at KeyBank Center, contributing whether even strength, on the power play or penalty kill.

The Wraparound: Sabres 4, Golden Knights 2

He recorded his second assist of the season on the power play, teaming with Kyle Okposo to set up Jack Eichel’s first goal of the game.

“Risto and Okie make a good play and I just happened to be there to shoot it,” Eichel said.

Scandella, paired with Ristolainen, was second on the Sabres with 22:20 of ice time. No other teammate recorded more than 20 minutes.

Ristolainen, who turns 24 years old this month, has led the Sabres in ice time each of the last two seasons, when he’s ranked among the league leaders, as well.

Ristolainen averaged the fourth-most ice time in the NHL last season, his 26:30 per game surpassed only by L.A.'s Drew Doughty (26:50), Minnesota's Ryan Suter (26:47) and Ottawa's Erik Karlsson (26:44).

He recorded the 10th-most ice time in the league in 2015-16, when he averaged 25:17.

Ristolainen was averaging 25:35 through the first two games this season, about 50 seconds fewer than last season, but still the 10th-highest in the NHL.

“It’s not really my choice,” Ristolainen said. “I can’t pick how much I play. I try to earn as many minutes as possible and everyone wants to be on the ice as much as possible.”

He works hard to build his strength and stamina, as his social media posts can attest.

“He’s a weapon out there. He’s a horse,” Scandella said. “He can play a lot of minutes. Hopefully we have a good enough back end this year where a lot of guys can move the puck, skate, so we don’t have to put that much pressure on him to play 26, 27 (minutes) every game. It’s tough. So just getting maybe a little bit less ice time and get more guys involved, I think it’ll be better for our team. But he’s an absolute horse. You can count on him every day.”

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