The power play continues to be a work in progress. And the Buffalo Sabres continue to work on it in practice. Every day.
The Sabres still have the worst power play in the league, clicking at just 8.8 percent with eight goals in 91 attempts. They’re better at home – six of those power play goals have come at First Niagara Center.
“I think a lot of it is quick puck movement,” defenseman Tyler Myers said. “Get the puck moving around and taking what’s given to you. Take the simple play whether it’s a shot from the half wall, shot from the point. We create the most havoc when we get the puck to the net. Quick puck movement to each other then when the opportunity is there to take it and not try to make the pretty play.”
Myers, a heavy right shot, has been playing the point on the power play along with forward Drew Stafford.
Stafford has “been manning the left side,” Myers said. “We’ve been trying to communicate with each other outside of practice on how we can be most effective. I feel like it’s been going really well. The Winnipeg game, we got a good goal from the other unit but the time we were out, to be honest I thought it was our best power play game of the year.”
The Sabres went 1 for 4 on the power play in Winnipeg on Tuesday, getting a goal from Nikita Zadorov.
“That first period power play I thought was tremendous the way we moved the puck,” coach Ted Nolan said. “And I think we had two or three empty nets and just fumbled the puck at the last second. … It’s just a matter of time before those things start going in on a regular basis.”
Buffalo’s penalty killing has been comparatively much better. The Sabres rank 20th in the NHL, killing off 79.5 percent of their short-handed situations. And lately the unit has taken a hit with veteran penalty killers Mike Weber, Josh Gorges, Cody McCormick and Torrey Mitchell out with injury.
“Those guys are mainstays on the penalty kill,” Nolan said. “When you lose those, it’s tough. Brian Gionta stepped up and started killing some penalties. Nic Deslauriers, we wanted to get him more ice time and he’s really taken it to another level, too. Patrick Kaleta, all of a sudden he has a chance at a little more.”
Weber practiced with the Sabres on Friday, a sign that he will soon return to the lineup. Weber was placed on the injured reserve Dec. 13 after having knee surgery. He is not expected to play Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche at First Niagara Center.
“He’s healing. He’s a quick healer,” Nolan said. “He’s feeling good. He even had aspirations of playing this Saturday but I think he’s more enthusiastic than ready. But it was a good sign. He’s really close. Just a clean-up type of thing he had to get done. No major damage so maybe.”
Tyson Strachan missed his second practice on Friday with another “maintenance day” while Gorges skated with the team and is eager to go after missing two games with a finger injury.
Colorado comes to Buffalo having lost its last two games in overtime. The Avalanche are 3-4-3 in their last 10 and their 28 points have them in 12th place in the Western Conference.
This is the second of a three-game road trip for the Avs. They lost 1-0 in overtime at Pittsburgh on Thursday and play at Detroit on Sunday.
Former Sabres captain Daniel Briere has six goals and seven points in 24 games with Colorado.