If there was a bright spot in the Buffalo Sabres' 5-2 loss Wednesday to the Boston Bruins – and that's a big if – then it was the play of rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
Playing in just his second NHL game – and on his first-ever shot – he scored his first career goal in the second period. He picked up the puck at the blue line, rushed in to the faceoff circle and backhanded a shot past Chad Johnson. At 18 years and six months, he become the second-youngest Sabres player ever to score behind Pierre Turgeon.
He celebrated like you might expect a teenager to, as well. A look of sheer exaltation came over his face after he realized the puck went in, and he kept thrusting his arms upward as his teammates swarmed him. In the locker room after the game, he said all the right things about the loss being more important than his goal. But he couldn't help but beam when asked to describe the goal.
Zadorov missed making his NHL debut to start the season due to injury. But the 2013 first-round draft pick said after the game he does not anticipate being sent back to juniors once his nine-game NHL trial period ends:
Coach Ron Rolston would not come out and say as much, but he indicated Zadorov would stay with the Sabres. Zadorov played 17:44 Wednesday, so Rolston clearly didn't fear giving the teenager quality ice time.
"He's one of our better guys back there," Rolston said. "Our young guys have been really good."
Goalie Ryan Miller said he was happy to have the kid playing in front of him:
"He's big. He's fast … he's certainly not afraid to use the ice. We've just got to help him along."
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