Despite defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen being signed for the next six years, the team doesn’t anticipate increasing his workload this season, writes John Vogl of the Buffalo News. If anything, the team may be trying to scale back his ice time slightly.
In 2015-16, Ristolainen saw a significant jump in his playing time, going from an average of 20:37 in his sophomore campaign to 25:17 per night last season. That ranked him tenth in the league in average ice time and after factoring in that he played in every game, his total ice time on the season slotted fifth overall.
Head coach Dan Bylsma is looking for more balance in his blueline pairings, something that should be aided with the addition of Dmitry Kulikov back at the draft in June. The 25 year old has logged over 20 minutes per night in each of the last five seasons which will be useful if Bylsma wants to keep the ice time of pairings relatively close.
Buffalo’s back end is relatively healthy heading into tonight’s season opener against Montreal although Kulikov isn’t expected to play. The same can’t be said for their forwards as they will be without Jack Eichel who injured his ankle on Wednesday and will miss at least a month. Newcomer Kyle Okposo (bruised knee) also won’t play while Ryan O’Reilly (back) is questionable to suit up although he did participate in the morning skate.
Other Atlantic news and notes:
- Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper is hopeful that Ryan Callahan should be able to return to the lineup by the beginning of November, notes Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Times. Callahan underwent hip surgery back in June and was expected to be out until mid-late November. The 31 year old had 28 points in 73 games last season, the lowest full season output of his career but was slowed in the back half last year because of the hip problems.
- Despite knee problems creeping up and tiring as the season went on last year, Detroit left winger Henrik Zetterberg still expects to play out the remaining five years of his contract, reports Gregg Krupa of the Detroit News. Zetterberg played in all 82 games last year for the first time in four seasons but is only two years removed from missing nearly half the season with injury concerns. The 36 year old will carry a cap hit of just under $6.1MM through the 2020-21 season and if he were to retire early, the team would be subject to salary cap recapture due to the significant decrease in his salary in the final three years of the deal.
- Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau has undergone surgery to repair an Achilles tendon, George Richards of the Miami Herald notes (Twitter link). There is no change to the expected timetable for his return which should be in the next three to four months.
- The Red Wings returned goaltender Eddie Pasquale to Grand Rapids of the AHL, the team announced on their team Twitter page. Pasquale had cleared waivers and was originally sent down last Wednesday but had been recalled on Tuesday afternoon.