Through his Facebook page Wednesday, Buffalo Sabres forward Mikhail Grigorenko announced he is heading back to Russia, stating “Flying to RUSSIA on Sunday with my brother Zadorov!!!!)))))))))”

Grigorenko’s agent later confirmed to Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald the post was indeed made by Grigorenko, and that it means what we all knew it meant—the struggling sophomore Sabre would be playing for Russia in the upcoming World Junior Championships.

The Sabres officially announced Thursday morning they would honor the request and loan Grigorenko to Russia for the tournament.

The 19-year-old Russian’s punctuation tells the story—he’s ecstatic for the opportunity. And who can blame him? In Buffalo, he’s been relegated to fourth-line duty or, worse, has warmed press box seats as a healthy scratch. The 2012 first-round draft pick has scored just three goals—two in one game earlier this year in Anaheim—in 43 games with the club.

The Sabres even tried to send him to the American Hockey League in November, only to have the attempt denied by the NHL due to the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.

It’s clear that Grigorenko doesn’t presently fit within the Sabres’ scheme. On a Ted Nolan-coached club preaching hard work and grinding in the corners, the underachieving Grigorenko has been an odd man out. He knows it, telling reporters both Tuesday and Wednesday that he was waiting for a call from the Russian Hockey Federation for an opportunity to head to Scandinavia for the WJC.

Grigorenko was a goal-scoring machine in two seasons with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, scoring 70 goals in 92 games. The opportunity to play a more wide-open game on the international-sized rink with players his own age will give him the chance to regain some goal-scoring confidence he has lost in Buffalo.

A strong performance in the tournament could bring momentum back to the First Niagara Center ice and help Grigorenko turn his career in the right direction. He has just one year left in his entry-level contract. How he performs in the next month at the WJC may determine whether he will begin the process of earning a longer-term deal after that or whether he will become a career journeyman—or perhaps return to Russia permanently.

Follow me on Twitter @DEmkeSabres for team news and commentary.

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The deadline to finalize rosters for the 12 teams playing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is fast approaching. (It’s Jan. 7, to be precise.)

Ever since NHL players started playing in the Winter Olympic games in the 1998 Nagano games, a highlight for fans of each franchise has been seeing familiar faces playing on the international stage. What longtime Buffalo Sabres fan doesn’t remember staying up late to watch Dominik Hasek lead the Czech Republic to the gold medal in those ’98 games, or recall Ryan Miller’s meteoric rise to the most beloved hockey player in America during the 2010 Olympics?

Needless to say, the talent level on the Sabres roster leaves a lot to be desired during this particular Olympic season. But that being said, there are a few players who will likely be a part of the tournament in February—and, of course, one head coach barking orders from behind a bench.

Also worth noting is that two of Germany’s top defensemen, Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Sulzer, won’t be making the trip to Sochi because the German National Team failed to qualify for the tournament. Both Ehrhoff and Sulzer were members of the German team in both 2006 (10th-place finish) and 2010 (11th-place finish), while Ehrhoff was also a member in 2002 (eighth-place finish).

So while Ehrhoff and Sulzer will definitely be staying home, there are a handful of other Sabres players who may be playing for medals come February.

Note: All stats are updated through Nov. 30, courtesy of, unless otherwise noted.

Follow me on Twitter @DEmkeSabres for team news and commentary.

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