On the ice, 18-year-old Mikhail Grigorenko has spent the week on the Buffalo Sabres' third line between veterans Steve Ott and Ville Leino. In the crowded dressing room, he's spent it on a chair in one corner as the only player without his own stall.

But after practice Friday in First Niagara Center, veteran assistant equipment manager George Babcock was putting the nameplate "Grigorenko" over the stall of departed defenseman Adam Pardy and moving some equipment into the locker.

"Doesn't mean anything, doesn't mean anything," Babcock said as some television cameras started shooting the empty locker. "Just not sitting at a chair."

Uh-huh. A few minutes later, General Manager Darcy Regier walked into the media room unannounced and told reporters that Grigorenko will be on the roster to start the season and whether he plays in Sunday's opener against Philadelphia will be a "coach's decision."

Lindy Ruff, standing on the side of the room, failed to hide his smirk. The kid is playing.

"I'm real happy that I'm on an NHL team now," Grigorenko said a few minutes later when told of the team's decision by The News. "I'm really excited."

Grigorenko has looked completely comfortable in camp all week, showing good hands, strong skating ability and a solid shot. Ott and Leino have said how impressed they've been with him, with Leino even making some comparisons to former Detroit teammate Pavel Datsyuk. A crowd of more than 10,000 gave Grigorenko the loudest cheer during the shootout of Monday night's open scrimmage.