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Sabres' power outage has Phil Housley ready for big changes

Phil Housley has seen enough. There's no execution on the Buffalo Sabres' power play, so it's time for the coach to execute it.

"We've got to do some hard looking at it," Housley said.

The coach inherited the NHL's top power play, but he can be forgiven for not believing it. The Sabres are 30th in the 31-team league, and they've been blanked in 17 of their 24 games.

Buffalo is 0 for 15 in the last six games, so Housley planned to spend Sunday working up new units and game plans.

"Obviously, we need to take a really hard look at it because it's losing momentum for us in games," Housley said.

The final straw came during Saturday's 3-0 loss in Montreal. The Sabres had a chance to make it 2-1 with the man-advantage midway through the third period. Instead, Jack Eichel coughed up the puck and Buffalo allowed its seventh short-handed goal, tied with the New York Islanders for most in the NHL.

"That was a dagger," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said.

Eichel regretted the mistake and said he was looking forward to helping the power play get back on track during practice Monday. It'll be interesting to see where the center lines up – if he lines up.

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Eichel has a team-high 90:16 of power-play time. He has no goals and one assist. He leads the Sabres in power-play shots with 25, but he also paces the team with six of its 21 giveaways.

It's quite the fall for the playmaker. Last season, Eichel was second on the Sabres in power-play goals (10) and tied for second in power-play points (24).

Few players are producing as Buffalo has gone 10 for 75 this year. Evander Kane has four assists and five points with the man-advantage. Ryan O'Reilly has four goals. Sam Reinhart has two goals and two assists. Kyle Okposo has three assists and four points.

The only other players with more than one point are Rasmus Ristolainen (two assists) and Jason Pominville (goal, assist).

Ristolainen was the quarterback last year, leading the team with 24 assists and 25 points. He was hurt for nine games, but his fall mimics Eichel's drop. O'Reilly is halfway to last year's goal total of eight, but his assists have dropped from 16 to zero.

Matt Moulson led Buffalo with 11 power-play goals last year, but he can't crack the lineup. His run of being scratched could end at six games if Housley decides Moulson can spark the power play Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Meanwhile, Rochester ranks 10th on the power play in the American Hockey League. Forward C.J. Smith and defenseman Brendan Guhle have three goals each. Smith is off to a hot start, recording six goals and 19 points in 19 games.

Housley gave Buffalo a chance to recapture its magic. The new coach opened the year with the same No. 1 unit as last season: Eichel, O'Reilly, Okposo, Reinhart and Ristolainen. After the group struggled, Housley tinkered. After more struggles, he went back to the original fivesome.

There's sure to be new faces now. Whoever is on the units will need to pick up the pace.

Housley was disappointed with the Sabres' approach in Montreal. They slowly skated to center ice, allowing the Canadiens to pressure the puck carrier and force a dump-in. Montreal goaltender Carey Price would retrieve the puck, pass it to a defenseman and watch the Sabres skate all the way back to their own end.

"We've just got to come with more speed," Housley said. "You’re playing into a 1-3" defensive scheme "right across the blue line. If you don't come with speed, they're just going to check forward on you.

"We'll get back into work on Monday and see where it goes."

Seth Griffith got another chance to show what he could do. Now he's headed to Rochester or another team.

The Sabres waived the winger Sunday, giving other NHL clubs until noon Monday to claim him. If no one does, the Sabres can send Griffith to the Amerks.

Griffith had two goals, one assist and 14 shots in 18 games. He's been a healthy scratch lately, but he returned to the lineup in Montreal. He had one shot and a penalty in 9:03 of ice time.

The winger is well-known on the waiver wire. He started last season with Boston and was subsequently claimed by Toronto, Florida and then Toronto again.

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