ANAHEIM, Calif. – Tyler Myers is in a really good place. He feels great physically. He’s on a mental high.
He just wishes he could enjoy it more. The lack of team success is dragging him down.
Myers is one of the few quality performers so far for the Sabres, who entered Wednesday night’s game in Anaheim with a 1-5 record. Myers leads Buffalo in ice time, was tied for the most shots and was only minus-1 on a team that has 13 guys worse than that.
“It’s just a matter of our group pulling together to start turning things the other way,” Myers said in Honda Center.
He still hopes to be part of the turnaround, but the 24-year-old’s early resurgence has made him a popular man. The big names in hockey news, TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger, consistently link Myers to the Detroit Red Wings. They say if Buffalo lowers its asking price, which reportedly includes University of Michigan center Dylan Larkin, Myers could be on the move.
The innuendo is not affecting the 6-foot-8 defenseman.
“I haven’t heard too much,” Myers said. “Obviously, murmurings here and there, but I had a lot of that last year at the trade deadline. It’s not something that bothers me.”
Losing, however, bothers him big-time. Every time he was given an opportunity to talk about his start, he turned the conversation toward the team. Buffalo had found the net just seven times in the opening six games, with no goals from the shell-shocked defense corps.
“It’s going to be up to puck possession,” Myers said. “It’s tough for anybody, forward or D, if we’re spending most of the time in the D-zone. If we focus on controlling that puck and doing the simple, little things that will create more puck time for us, then everyone will have more chances.
“I just think it gets back to as a group we need to control the puck more. I think as a five-man unit on the ice right now, there’s some things that we need to clean up that will allow us to have more opportunities in the offensive zone. Right now we’re spending a little too much time in our own end, and it’s tough to get the chances we want as a group.”
Myers has taken 15 shots this season, tied with right wing Chris Stewart for the team lead. Myers can shoot more because he’s on the ice more.
Myers entered the game against the Ducks averaging 25:49 per outing, which ranked ninth in the NHL. Defensemen Andre Benoit (21:46) and Josh Gorges (21:23) were the only other Sabres above 19 minutes per game.
“I always knew I could handle those minutes, and I feel I’m in a really good spot mentally right now,” Myers said. “Whether you’re getting 20 or 25 minutes, you approach each shift the same way. It’s just a matter of doing it for more shifts.
“Physically, I feel really good, so I don’t think there’s much of a conserve factor. It’s just going into every shift and focusing on the same thing.”
Sam Reinhart’s practice effort impressed Ted Nolan, so the rookie got another chance to try to impress people during a game. Reinhart, scratched for the Sabres’ previous outing, was back in the lineup against Anaheim.
“I think he was just overwhelmed in the first number of games,” Nolan said. “It’s better to sit back and watch and observe and get a new perspective, so he’s going in.”
Reinhart replaced Brian Flynn, who was scratched along with defensemen Tyson Strachan and Nikita Zadorov. Michal Neuvirth started in goal, possibly clearing the way for Jhonas Enroth to start tonight against Los Angeles.
The Sabres continued to do extra faceoff work during practice. They were last in the NHL in faceoffs, winning just 41.7 percent of the draws.
“In order to score you’ve got to shoot the puck,” Nolan said. “We haven’t been shooting the puck, and it starts in the faceoffs. If you don’t win the faceoffs, you end up chasing the puck more so than not. We’ve got to really bear down on our faceoffs, get ourselves in position, move our feet, attack.”
Anaheim has also been focusing on faceoffs, and the Ducks rank fourth in the league after winning 54.3 percent. Center Ryan Getzlaf was at 59.2 percent, while Ryan Kesler was at 57.5 percent.
“I know Ryan Getzlaf is one of the most competitive men I’ve ever met, and he doesn’t want to be second in anything,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Kess comes in here and he’s doing good on faceoffs, I’m thinking that Ryan is bearing down a little more.”