Last year, Rasmus Ristolainen had a career-best nine goals. This year, he has zero goals and seven broken sticks.
The situation has become as ridiculous as it is expected: Ristolainen winds up from the point on a power play and takes a slapshot, only to shatter his stick. It happened again last night in the first period.
More than just a failed shot on goal, the play often results in lost valuable power play time and can lead to a turnover going the other way.
Last night, against the Calgary Flames, Coach Dan Bylsma had finally seen enough. He exchanged some stern words with his young defenseman on the bench. Ristolainen got the message. In the second period, during the next Sabres’ power play, Ristolainen came off the bench with a Bauer Nexus in his grip instead of his usual Warrior Covert stick that he’s used through the first 17 games this season. Soon thereafter he helped set up a power play goal by Kyle Okposo. The goal was a catalyst for the Sabres offense that found life and carried the team to a 4-2 win against the visiting Flames.
After the game, Ristolainen said changing sticks was “just a game decision.” He’s not sure which stick he’ll use tomorrow when the Detroit Red Wings are in town. “I’m struggling with the stick so I’m not sure what I’m going to go with next so I really don’t have an answer.”
Ristolainen has eight assists this season (all coming on the power play) and is still looking for his first goal. In early October of this year, he was signed to a six-year deal with an average salary of $5.4 million.