Brad Boyes says he feels comfortable working on a power-play unit with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. How could he not? Boyes has earned a dream assignment, skating alongside the second- and third-best scorers in the NHL. Of course he feels comfortable.
The good vibe from the grouping has allowed the right winger to record two goals and four points in two games. He's given the Buffalo Sabres a scoring threat not named Vanek and Pominville, even if those two are the players helping him out.
"It's nice to get a chance on the power play, and I'm trying to take advantage of it," Boyes said.
Coach Lindy Ruff is hoping the rest of the team catches up with Vanek and Pominville, too. The Sabres welcome the Florida Panthers to First Niagara Center tonight (7 p.m., MSG, Radio 550 AM) and their main goal is to provide a more balanced attack.
Ruff said following Thursday's 4-2 victory over Columbus, a game in which Pominville and Vanek combined for two goals and six points, that he'd like to see a "line controversy." He wants each trio to battle to be the best on the squad because, at the moment, there's no doubt who's No. 1.
"You'd like to see your lines competing to be the best," Ruff said Friday. "I think we're making strides."
There have definitely been signs of complementary production. The line of Paul Gaustad, Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Kaleta has found the net once in each of the past two games. One of Boyes' goals came while skating with Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick.
"The Gaustad line is kicking a few in, and obviously Brad's gotten on the board the last couple, but you'd love to have it where another line is starting to heat up," Ruff said.
The line that's really looking for a flicker is center Derek Roy, left wing Ville Leino and right wing Drew Stafford. They combined for just three shots and a minus-3 rating against the Blue Jackets.
Roy and Stafford have gone four games without a point. Leino has one goal and one assist in the season's nine games.
"Other lines maybe haven't contributed as much as they've wanted, including ours," Leino said. "But I'm sure it's going to come sooner or later. We've had some good shifts, now we've just got to keep them more consistent."
Leino and his linemates found the net several times during a light practice Friday, and they made sure everyone knew about it. They shouted and raised their sticks as if it were overtime of the playoffs.
"It was more fun than we've had in a while in practice," Leino said, "sometimes that's what you need."
Jochen Hecht was well enough to sign autographs on his way out of the arena, but the Sabres forward could do little else Friday. Hecht, who has been out since suffering a concussion on the second day of training camp, had to take a day off that was "not scheduled," he said.
"He wasn't doing that well," Ruff said with a sigh. "We're just trying to figure some things out. Not to go into detail, but he could be back to full go [today]. He's seeing some people [Friday], and there's a good chance he can practice again."
Kaleta, meanwhile, added a piece of equipment to make it through practice. The right winger has an infection on his nose that has caused his face to redden and swell up, and he has been forced to attach a full cage to his helmet. He is expected to play tonight.
"We're hoping with medication that that'll go down," Ruff said. "He's not the prettiest guy right now, but he can still be effective."
The Sabres will host the grand opening of their "Tailgate Tent Party" before tonight's game. The 3,200-square-foot heated tent, which was set up earlier this week, will be open for two hours prior to home games and will feature concessions and live music. Admission is $10, and participants must be 21 or older. A package including a 300 Level II ticket and the tent party is available for $55.