The Sabres scored twice, in six tries, on the power play in Thursday night's 4-1 win over Pittsburgh, their first goals with the man-advantage in their last five starts.
They were 0 for 15 in the previous four games. Only a 2-for-3 performance on opening night has kept them in the middle of the pack in the league in that category. Still, an 11.1 percent success rate is nothing to be proud of.
"There's no excuse for that," winger Donald Audette said.
"Our power play has to improve," said defenseman Garry Galley, who often plays the point on the unit. "The way our team is structured, the power play becomes a very key issue to our hockey club. If our power play is solid, we're going to have the opportunity to win games.
"It's going to keep us in games, and it's going to win us some games. It forces other teams not to take liberties on us, because we can hurt them with our power play."
The biggest problem with the unit has been continuity. Pat LaFontaine was late arriving in training camp because of the World Cup, and Donald Audette (knee injury) and Jason Dawe (holdout) missed all of camp.
The Buffalo Sabres issued a news release before Thursday's game denying a Buffalo News report that the team's organization was filled with internal strife.
"The Sabres have hired able and energetic individuals to carry out our goals," the release stated. "From time to time differences of opinion will occur, and are indeed necessary if we are to remain a healthy and vibrant franchise.
"Careful consideration will be given to any difficulties that may exist. The franchise is confident, however, that the scope and impact of those differences of opinion have been overstated and will not have an impact in the future on the players, Sabres' employees, Sabres' management, and our loyal fans."
The remarks were attributed to "the Buffalo Sabres' ownership group." No specific member of the organization was quoted or mentioned in the release.
Holdout Matthew Barnaby attended the game, and said he was close to reaching a contract agreement with the Sabres. Barnaby said a few details still have to be worked out, but he hopes everything can be finished by the weekend. . . . Thursday's three stars were Dominik Hasek, Galley and Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr. . . . The shots on goal wound up 30-30. It was the biggest shot total of the season for the Sabres; their previous high was 21.