For five weeks this season, Sabres prospect Arttu Ruotsalainen played short minutes as Buffalo’s fourth-line center, mustering just two goals.
Finally, after the Sabres scratched Ruotsalainen four times over a five-game stretch in November, they sent him back to the AHL, where he began last season.
When Ruotsalainen, 24, arrived in Rochester, Americans coach Seth Appert was surprised at what he saw.
Ruotsalainen had performed like one of the AHL’s elite talents last season, recording five goals and 13 points in 13 games before forcing his way up to Buffalo in April. But in late November, the Finn looked nothing like that player.
“When he came down to us originally, I was like, ‘Whoa, this is not the same player that I coached last year,’” Appert said on a Zoom call prior to Wednesday’s game against the Syracuse Crunch. “I think sometimes when you’re not playing a lot, the life gets sucked out of you and it’s not as much fun to come to the rink because you’re scratched and all of those things.”
So it took Ruotsalainen time to adjust to the AHL after playing 33 straight games in the big leagues. He recorded just two assists in his first seven outings. In one game, he registered an awful minus-4 rating. He scored his first goal in his seventh appearance.
But Ruotsalainen has found a groove and been on a tear this month. Entering Wednesday’s game at Blue Cross…