Tim Kennedy, coach Lindy Ruff said at the start of the season, needed to play on one of the Buffalo Sabres' top lines to be his most effective. Apparently, that statement was correct.
Kennedy's rookie season has taken an upturn during the past three games, which coincided with a move alongside Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. The line adjustment also has coincided with a three-game winning streak and spurt of 4.7 goals per game.
"After we had those games where we didn't start too well, we just kind of went back to practice on putting pucks on the net and playing our system, and guys have been putting the puck in the net the last few games," Kennedy said. "We've been going pretty good."
The Sabres, who took Monday off and start a three-game homestand Wednesday against Montreal, have received scoring from all parts of their lineup during the three-game run. There's no denying, however, the new trio has been effective.
"That line you'd like to keep together," Ruff said. "That depends whether they can hold up against other teams' big lines."
Ruff has repeatedly praised the unit, which combined on a quick-strike goal during Sunday's 5-3 win in Carolina. Roy entered the left side of the Hurricanes' zone, went cross ice to Vanek, who one-touched a pass to the top of the crease. The driving Kennedy never broke stride and slid a backhand into the net for his second goal in four games.
"That was a pretty nice goal, and I owe it all to those two," Kennedy said.
It's a mutual praise society.
"He's feisty down low," Roy said of Kennedy. "He goes down and gets pucks, makes plays. He's learning every game. I try to talk to him and teach him a few things, and at the same time he's playing real well for us."
Vanek, a left winger since joining the Sabres, has moved to the opposite side since Kennedy is also a left winger. The switch has forced Vanek to change a few angles on breakouts and has made Roy, his longtime center, think more about how to feed a right-handed shot on the right side.
They don't mind, thanks to the group's effectiveness.
"We've cycled the puck well," Vanek said. "We've found each other in the high slot, getting shots off. I don't think we played as well [Sunday] as the nights before, but we had a few good chances and got one.
"It's about finding holes for the three of us. I think we all can create. It's working right now."
Kennedy has his one goal in the last three games, Vanek has three points (goal, two assists) and Roy has five (goal, four assists). Vanek and Roy have been clicking with another group, too.
"Power play's getting us goals," Roy said.
The Sabres' man-advantage unit has scored in four of the last six games, finding the net five times. It was blanked in seven straight outings prior to the run.
The spike in scoring was a long time coming. The Sabres have topped the three-goal barrier in two of the last three games (they beat Tampa Bay, 6-2). They had more than three only once in the previous 14 games and twice in the prior 20.
With Ryan Miller allowing 2.20 goals per game, scoring more than three greatly increases the Sabres' chances at winning, obviously.
"For half the year we were getting two or three a game, and we were still winning games because of Ryan," Kennedy said. "If our team can help him out and maybe get three or four, we're going to be a pretty hard team to beat down the stretch."