The Buffalo Sabres hope that help in the form of Jason Woolley has arrived for their ailing power play.
The Sabres acquired Woolley from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a fifth-round draft choice. He is known as an offensive defenseman. Last season Woolley had six goals and 30 assists in 60 games with the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh. He's sure to spend some time on the point as the Sabres try to improve a power play that was the worst in the league last season.
"I know I can help on the power play," Woolley said. "I'm sure I'm going to play an important role in that part of it, but at the same time I want to play well in even-strength situations. It's important to me and it's important to the team."
"He did a great job for us in Florida," said coach Lindy Ruff, who coached Woolley when they were both with the Panthers. "He was the difference in a couple of (1996 playoff) series just on the power play alone. We were at the point that we dressed seven defensemen just so that we had him for the power play. We used the other guys to play against dominating forwards."
Woolley didn't get much time to think about his new situation. He was acquired on Wednesday, signed a new two-year contract on Thursday, and was in the lineup for the Sabres on Thursday night.
"I thought under the circumstances he had a pretty good night," Ruff said about Woolley's play against the Toronto Maple Leafs. "He finished a few checks. I thought he passed the puck well. For throwing him into a game after sitting out for so long, I thought he carried himself pretty good.
Wade Redden's drive from the point at 16:58 of the second period proved to be the game winner as the Ottawa Senators stretched the Sabres' preseason winless streak to seven games with a 3-2 victory before 16,529 at the Corel Centre Friday.
Shawn McEachern and Radek Bonk also scored for the Senators. Derek Plante and Miroslav Satan scored for the Sabres (0-5-2).
Redden's goal broke a 2-2 tie created when the Sabres scored twice in a 69- second span in the same period.
Ottawa finished the exhibition schedule at 3-3-2 while the Sabres close out their preseason against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at 7:30 at Marine Midland Arena.
The National Hockey League released its list of eligible players for Sunday's waiver draft. The Sabres have made center Patrice Tardif, defenseman Mike Hurlbut and goalie Mike Bales available.
Buffalo did have to include unrestricted free agents Michael Peca, Alexei Zhitnik and Miroslav Satan on its protected list in order to keep their rights. Steve Shields did not have to be protected yet, so the Sabres could freeze Dominik Hasek and Andrei Trefilov.
The parking lot of Marine Midland Bank Atrium (across from Marine Midland Arena) will be filled with activity this weekend, as "NHL Breakout" will be staged there today and Sunday. The event is billed the official off-ice hockey tour of the NHL.
A tournament for street and in-line hockey teams will be staged in inflatable rinks on the lot. Meanwhile, a special-events area also has been set up where fans can have slapshots timed, stop pucks, go through an obstacle course, and meet past and present Sabres.
The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days, and there is no admission charge for spectators. Call 855-4597 for more information.
Thursday's attendance was something of a "good news/bad news" situation for the Sabres. Season ticket-holders were not required to purchase tickets for either of Buffalo's two home preseason games. The team still sold more than 6,000 tickets for the game. Sabres president Larry Quinn said Friday that number might be the largest such preseason sale of "unrequired" tickets in team history.
However, not everyone who purchased tickets actually showed up for the game. The actual attendance for the contest with the Toronto Maple Leafs looked to be closer to 2,000. It was probably the smallest home crowd in the Sabres' preseason history, as season ticket-holders usually have been obligated to purchase preseason games as part of the package in past years.
Last season, the first preseason game was the first event in Marine Midland Arena history and was a sellout. The second preseason game was included at no charge to season ticket-holders.
The Sabres reported no breakthroughs in contract negotiations with Peca and Zhitnik. Satan said there was a "70 percent chance" that he would work out a deal with the team in the near future. Satan has been participating in training camp without a contract, but he'll need a new deal to take part in the regular season next week. . . . Ruff said he'll make final roster moves at some point after Saturday's game.