Lindy Ruff left no doubt this week there was only one person who could turn Derek Roy's disappointing season into a respectable one.
"It's totally up to Derek," the Sabres' coach said.
For the second straight game, Roy showed signs he's ready to turn around his season. Buffalo's top-line center assisted on both goals Tuesday to help lead the Sabres to a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders. The sellout crowd in First Niagara Center saw the Sabres win their second straight and improve to 7-3-2 in the last 12 games.
"We've got to win hockey games," Roy said. "That's all we can think about right now. It's about working together, working hard and just winning hockey games."
The Sabres, who started the game 14th in the Eastern Conference, moved past the Islanders and Montreal into 12th. They start today -- the one-year anniversary of Terry Pegula's ownership -- six points out of a playoff spot with 22 games remaining.
"We're happy, but at the same time we've got to get some more points," Roy said. "We can't win one, lose one anymore. We've got to keep winning games, put a streak together. We've got to gain some ground."
Roy, who has been on pace for the worst full season of his career, extended his points streak to four games with the two-assist night. He has two goals and five helpers during the run, increasing his season totals to 13 goals and 34 points in 58 games.
"I'm skating well," said Roy, who played just half of last season because of quadriceps surgery. "My leg's feeling pretty good compared to the start of the season, so I'm just going to try to keep getting in my groove, keep playing hard every night."
Roy and the Sabres needed just 1:21 to score, getting the arena crowd out of its seats just after sitting in them. Roy's no-look backhand allowed Ville Leino to carry the puck toward the net, with rookie goaltender Kevin Poulin overreacting to the drive.
While Poulin attempted to recover from an arm flail that put him out of position and Roy's rebound whack, Tyler Myers pulled the puck out of a scrum and deposited it into the open net. The goal was the second in three games for Myers, who extended his points streak to four straight.
The Sabres struck for the second time with 3:41 gone in the second. Roy streaked down the left side and continued behind the net. He stopped, feigned a return to the side of origin, then kept going to the far side.
He spotted Thomas Vanek in front, and the sniper had time to settle the pass and whip the puck past Poulin for his 22nd goal of the season.
"I wanted to shoot it, but the guy did a good job sliding, then I wanted to bank it off the goalie and he did a good job not giving me that play," Roy said. "I wanted to come around the net and look for a stick, and I saw a familiar stick there. It was Thomas, and I just wanted to put it right in his wheelhouse so he could score."
The Islanders had two prime opportunities to strike back in the second, but they were stymied by the post and the goalie standing in front of it.
The Sabres attempted to leave their zone without the puck, leaving Michael Grabner alone in the slot. He beat Ryan Miller on the glove side but clanked the post with five minutes gone.
Just 90 seconds later, Miller needed to make back-to-back stops to keep the Isles scoreless. The goalie denied Brian Rolston's breakaway and stayed square for the rebound, body control made necessary when Josh Bailey scooped up the puck. Miller stayed with Bailey's blast, rolling to get his shoulder on the attempt for two of his 30 saves.
"Great saves like that usually lead to victories for you," Ruff said.
The Islanders finally beat Miller with 5:08 left in the game on their 26th shot, a slap shot by Frans Nielsen. The Sabres peppered Poulin with 37 shots.
"The hope tank just gets a little more in it every game you win," Ruff said. "We got our part down, and along the way we're going to play those teams that are ahead of us. That's the big advantage of late in the year. We're going to see those teams, and we're going to have to win those games to make up the big difference."