Sabres' Ristolainen is enthusiatic about this season

August 27, 2018

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - When Rasmus Ristolainen left in April, he was mad, he was frustrated and he was tired of losing. During the summer, he said he worked out a lot and spent time with family and friends. Ristolainen has spent his first few days on the ice at HarborCenter after getting back from Finland. He said he can’t wait for the season, “I’m really excited, especially after a tough year like we had. Guys feel really excited about this year and me too.

“Everybody knows we needed some changes, some fresh blood here and I like the moves we made.“

It was no secret that the Sabres had a very toxic dressing room the past few seasons. With nine new players and some Stanley Cup champions coming in, Ristolainen expects a different atmosphere, “Guys coming in having been in the playoffs and on winning teams, they can bring their experience and work ethic to every day because every day counts.”

Ristolainen is all business when it comes to speaking to the media. I did get him to smile when I asked him about Rasmus Dahlin, “When you get the first pick, you get the best player and he’s a franchise player, he’s going to be a really good D and he’s been good in the few days I’ve been here.”

Everything has fallen on Ristolainen’s shoulders ever since he was drafted eighth overall on 2013. The argument has raged whether he’s a No. 1 NHL defenseman or not. I wondered if getting Dahlin would take some of the pressure off him and he said he hopes it doesn’t, “I like pressure, but as far as help, we can take all the help we can get and he’s going to be and already is a really good player, so he’s going to help every single guy and the team.”

In June, Ristolainen posted in picture on Instagram showing him throwing around truck tires. People liked what they saw, but he knows it has to translate on the ice. Ristolainen said, “Obviously when I post it on social media, I know people are going to see it.” The defenseman added with a smirk, “I don’t really care, if people like, good, if they don’t, it’s not my business.”

Phil Housley let the players know it’s going to be a tough training camp in the next few weeks. Ristolainen says that needs to happen, “It should be, absolutely, it has to be a tough camp because there are 30 other teams that are working their ….. off and so do we. We’ve got to work harder as every day comes and we need to be more ready than the Boston Bruins when we play them the first game of the season.”

Ryan O’Reilly felt he was a disappointment as a leader when he was in Buffalo. With him gone, there is room for others to step up and Ristolainen wants to be one of those guys, “It was one thing I was giving thought to over the summer and I’ve got to be a lot better on the ice and off the ice and as a leader. I have to be more vocal and try to get guys going and be an example every day.”

Ristolainen’s name has come up in trade talks, but he wasn’t the guy moved, it was O’Reilly. He said he knew some key players would go, “They were saying that some core players are going to get moved. You never know what’s going to happen, if it’s going to be me or someone else. It was a surprise and shock the first moment when you see it, but when things are not working, it’s not about the coach or GM, it’s about us players.”

Ristolainen didn’t think about being traded, but he did say he wants to be in Buffalo, “I’m not a person who worries about things that I can’t really do anything about. I was getting ready for the season, hopefully it’s here, but with the situation where we are at, I could’ve been somewhere else too, but I’m happy to be here.

“It’s a big challenge here. I want to be one of the guys to help lift the team up and be a playoff team. Buffalo feels like a second home to me, so I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”  

Ristolainen made it very simple before we were done. He said he has two goals and two expectations, “Win games and be in the playoffs, that’s all I care about.”

Joining Monday's skate were Marco Scandella, Sean Malone and Devante Stephens.