BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Buffalo Sabres have put their youth movement on hold a week after Pat LaFontaine took over.
LaFontaine, the team’s new president of hockey operations, announced a significant roster shuffle on Tuesday, when the Sabres demoted four rookies before their home game against St. Louis.
Veteran defenceman Mike Weber also was activated from injured reserve after missing 10 games with a thumb injury and is expected to play against the Blues.
Defenceman Nikita Zadorov was returned to his Canadian Junior team, the Ontario Hockey League London Knights. The move was made before Zadorov played his 10th NHL game, which is when his three-year contract would come into effect. Drafted 16th overall in June, Zadorov had a goal in seven games in Buffalo.
Fellow 2013 first-round pick, defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen, and forward Johan Larsson were assigned to the Sabres’ AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.
Center Mikhail Grigorenko is also heading to Rochester but on a conditioning assignment. That move gives the Sabres two weeks to determine whether to recall Grigorenko or send him to his junior team in Quebec.
Grigorenko has struggled finding a niche in Buffalo since being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. After making the Sabres roster to start last season, Grigorenko was returned to Quebec in March.
He made the Sabres once again this season, but has lacked playing time. Grigorenko has missed five of the past seven games and has two goals and an assist in 15 games this season.
The demotions mark a significant shift in philosophy under LaFontaine and interim coach Ted Nolan. The two took over after general manager Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston were fired last week after the Sabres got off to a franchise-worst 4-15-1 start.
Regier made it clear that he was intent on rebuilding the Sabres through younger players, no matter the team’s record.
On Tuesday, Nolan said the Sabres intend to fill the open roster spots later this week by recalling players from Rochester. One potential candidate is veteran forward Patrick Kaleta, who was assigned to Rochester after being waived by the Sabres two weeks ago.