Sep 15, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Raphael Diaz (61) is checked by Buffalo Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons (28) during the first period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Can Zemgus Girgensons Ignite Mikhail Grigorenko?

The Buffalo Sabres will take to the ice for their second pre-season game against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight and on top of the excitement of the new look top-line featuring Thomas Vanek, Cody Hodgson and Marcus Foligno, fans will also get a chance to see both 2012 first round draft picks together on the same line. Head Coach Ron Rolston is putting both Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons together on the 2nd line for tonight’s pre-season affair. While it may be exciting for fans to watch the dynamic duo perform together tonight, the new line may be a subtle wake-up call for Grigorenko.

It’s always tough for veteran players who know they’ll be with the team when the regular season starts, to get excited about pre-season. The Sabres have made it clear that Mikhail Grigorenko will make the team and be on the opening night roster, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t work hard during pre-season. Grigorenko is still in many aspects a rookie. This will be his first full season in the NHL and he will be counted on to anchor either the 2nd or 3rd line. The Sabres will be expecting more from him than last year because of his potential. During the first pre-season game, Grigorenko played like a guy who already knew he had the roster made and like he really couldn’t care less. Sure it was just the first pre-season game, but with other young players like Girgensons playing their hearts out for a shot to crack the roster, a lackluster effort from Grigorenko isn’t going to cut it.

While Grigorenko was virtually invisible aside from the shootout, Girgensons looked like a player who was determined to play in the NHL when the puck drops on the regular season. He threw hits, scored two goals and even got involved in the rough stuff and earned himself a penalty. Girgensons put his mark all over the first pre-season game and it looks like he may be the new model for young players in Buffalo.

In an effort to generate more offence and get Grigorenko going, Rolston has paired him with first game standout Girgensons and Corey Tropp. Both Tropp and Girgensons like to throw the body around, which should help open the ice for Grigorenko to do what he does best. It will be up to Grigorenko to bring his compete level to where Girgensons’ is and come ready to fight. Rolston is sending a message by pairing the two together, telling Grigorenko to watch how hard Girgensons competes. Rolston said he loved what he got out of Girgensons during the game in Montreal, but expected more out of Grigorenko. Pairing the two together can hopefully get both on the same page effort wise.

Grigorenko has the skill to blow the doors off most other young rookies, but he was over-shadowed last game. If he can get his effort level up to Girgensons’ level, lookout! Tonight Grigorenko won’t have to worry about the dirty work as his linemates will take care of that, he just needs to keep his stick on the ice and head up to capitalize on opportunities. It will be interesting to see the two star young rookies play together tonight and feed off of each other. If the two of them can get rolling with Tropp, they could be lethal in tonight’s game.

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Tags: Buffalo Sabres Mikhail Grigorenko Zemgus Girgensons

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