Ristolainen enjoying his playing time under Krueger

Rasmus Ristolainen is no stranger to playing at forward on the power play

Paul Hamilton
January 15, 2020 - 7:16 pm
Sabres-Red Wings

Photo: Rick Osentoski - USA TODAY Sports

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Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - Rasmus Ristolainen is having his best season as a Sabre.

It’s not just his play in front of the net on the power play, although that’s a plus. He’s been better defensively too. Ralph Krueger said, “He’s such a big tool for us. If you look at it, he has an unbelievable competitive spirit that he wants the Sabres to go in the right direction. He wants us to learn how to be a competitive team every night and he gives us excellent alternatives without the puck and with the puck. He has his own unique way of pressuring the opponent, plus he’s an extremely hard-working athlete off the ice.”

Ristolainen has never been a guy that will stand around and brag about his play, but as far as if it’s his best season he said, “Yes I agree, but there’s still a lot more to come and a lot more potential that I want to reach and I don’t think there’s any limits. I think you can get as good as you want and you work.”

The biggest question that comes to mind is why now? Why is he playing so much better seven years in? He credits Krueger and the system that he’s brought to the team, “It’s the team game we’re playing with everyone on the same page, with forwards defending really well and making our jobs a lot easier. So it’s been a lot better.

Now back to him creating havoc in front of the other team’s net. The big defenseman said, “I enjoy it a lot. I take a lot of pride in it and it’s been working, so I’m having a lot of fun out there.”

This isn’t the first time Ristolainen has been used as a forward. He said he used to play there when he was in Finland.

All this has shown us a different side of Ristolainen. He’s getting an opportunity to make plays down low, showing he has a little offensive flair. Ristolainen said, “I used to play forward back home, so I guess it’s still there and I try to think of it the other way too. When I’m defending, I see what good net front players are doing well and also what’s hard.”

Ristolainen scored on the power play in Detroit and had a good setup to Sam Reinhart for a power play goal against Vegas. Ristolainen is always around the puck in the crease, “I’ve been doing a pretty good job with loose pucks all over the goal line and I try to stay in front of the goalie and get in good battles with their D. If they focus on me too much, that’ll give other guys more space.”

He’s had some battles in front where I’ve counted more than 20 cross checks between the two players. Penalties are never called in those situations and that’s what Ristolainen wants, “I like it when it’s both ways, so you’ve got to pay the price to go to the net and I can take shots. But I’m going to give them back and so it all works out.”

Krueger doesn’t want to see penalties in that spot either, “That’s a fun part of the game when it’s tight and the fans want to see energy, but if it’s only going one way that should be called, but if it’s two guys battling net-front we need to let that go and I think it’s part of the passion of the game of hockey.”

In 47 games, Ristolainen has 22 points. Buffalo is in Dallas on Thursday.

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