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Boyes tries old routine to end slump

Brad Boyes has been getting to practice early and staying late. He's agonized over the gruesome statistics tethered to his production. He's gone to sleep with many questions only to arise with very few answers. His strategy Tuesday was changing his game-day routine and eating lunch at Bravo.

Boyes was a regular at the Walden Galleria restaurant after arriving last season at the trade deadline and helping the Sabres into the playoffs. He's been eating in the Sabres' cafeteria on game days this year and is having the worst season of his career. He decided to follow an old recipe, as absurd as it sounds.

"I figure I'd go back to the well," Boyes said with a smile, "and see if there's any water left."

In the interest of in-depth reporting, Boyes had chicken broccoli penne with vodka sauce. Any chance he can order a few goals on the side? The 29-year-old forward has three goals and 13 points in 47 games after going scoreless in the Sabres' 2-1 win over the Islanders.

Boyes rang in the new year with a 22-game scoring slump. He has one goal in 38 games since posting back-to-back two-point nights Oct. 25 and 27. He has one goal at even strength. Even if he scored in each of the 13 games he missed with injuries, he still would be on pace for 21 goals and a career-low 35 points.

His numbers are ghastly when you consider he scored 26 goals or more three times and had 43 goals in 2007-08. He had five goals and 14 points in 21 games for Buffalo last year. He has nine goals and 28 points in 75 games, including playoffs, after arriving from St. Louis for a second-round pick.

So far, the deal looks like a steal -- for the Blues. Boyes rode the left wing against the Isles on a line with Zack Kassian and Matt Ellis. They had numerous scoring opportunities but finished with no goals in a familiar story.

Boyes' stat line for all but 11 games this season: 0-0-0. His salary for the 2011-12 season: $4 million. His status as a pending unrestricted free agent with the trade deadline looming Monday: prepared for departure. There's no getting around the facts. Boyes, a standup guy, refused to hide from them Tuesday.

"It's fair," he said. "It is what it is. I can sit here and criticize myself because I know what I'm not doing right."

Boyes should take his share of blame for his problems. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff emphasized the numerous opportunities Boyes has blown this year. He hasn't played well and earned his place among the biggest busts in team history. But as much as he has failed the Sabres, they're also responsible for failing him.

Basically, he's been mostly misused since the day he walked in the door.

The win Tuesday marked the fourth time in the last seven games in which Boyes played fewer than 11 minutes. Is he not getting enough ice time because he hasn't produced or has he failed to produce because he's not getting enough ice time? It has become a giant, blue-and-gold Catch 22 for No. 22.

He was effective earlier in his career when playing the wing and bombing away from the left circle. He was forced to play center last season in what appeared to be a temporary arrangement. He was expected to be back on the wing this year assuming the Sabres found a suitable player for the middle.

At best, Boyes has looked extremely uncomfortable at the pivot. Their attempt to turn Ville Leino into a center was a disaster. Both struggled mightily this season along with winger Drew Stafford. Boyes and Stafford are former 30-goal scorers. Leino had 19 last year. They have combined for 17 this year.

It's not a coincidence. If anything, it further proved how the Sabres failed to properly address an obvious deficiency. And that's another reason they still face long odds of making the playoffs.

Bravo, gentlemen, bravo.

email: bgleason@buffnews.com