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Bruins, Sabres suffering power shortage

by John McGourty
BOSTON -- Where have all the power plays gone?

In a city whose transportation system, Charlie, is named for an old folk song, the Kingston Trio's "Charlie on the M.T.A.," it's a paraphrase of another old folk song, Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" that defines the Bruins-Sabres series.

Boston has one power-play goal from six opportunities in the three games, and that came in its Game 1 loss when Mark Recchi tied the game at 1-1 in the second period.

The Sabres, whose star Tim Connolly hasn't scored a goal in his last 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games, have been shut out in 12 tries, with a high of five opportunities in Game 1.

The Sabres were the NHL's 10th-best power-play team during the regular season. The offensively challenged Bruins finished in the second half of the League at 17th.

There are good reasons for the power-play scoring drought in this series. Buffalo had the second-best penalty kill in the NHL during the regular season and Boston was third. Boston's Marc Savard is an excellent power-play catalyst, but he hasn't played since his March 7 concussion. Buffalo is missing forwards Thomas Vanek and Jochen Hecht.

"I think with the personnel out, we're struggling offensively," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Monday night. "You can't miss some offensive personnel and have others not at the top of your game. We're struggling."

Vanek tied Derek Roy for the team lead with 10 power-play goals and Hecht had three. Jason Pominville had eight man-advantage tallies, Connolly had seven and Drew Stafford had five. Roy has one assist in the series and Pominville has one even-strength goal. Stafford, who missed the first two games with an injury, had two shots and no goals Monday night. Connolly is soon to appear on a milk carton near you.

Bruins coach Claude Julien was generous in explaining why his team's penalty kill is successful.

"Right now, there's a lot of intensity in the playoffs," he said. "Intensity a lot of times ends up in penalties. There's been skirmishes, big hits and penalties taken. When you're confident in your penalty kill and they can step up and do the job, it certainly encourages you to be a physical team and a hard team to play against. That's certainly given us that confidence."

"We like to rotate quick. We like to work hard on our penalty kill and get the rotations going. We, more or less, have three pairs, and there are a lot of times when we have them going twice in a span of two minutes. It's short, it's hard and it's consistent. Instead of waiting until they get tired to get off, they get out before they get tired and we get some fresh bodies out there. There's been some good momentum that way and it also allows us to get some pressure up the ice. It's something that we didn't do as well last year that we're doing better this year."

NOTES -- Vanek, wearing a medical boot to protect his ankle sprain, is highly unlikely to play Wednesday or practice.

Matt Ellis, who took a big hit in the second period Monday from Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk, left with a broken nose but returned late in the period and skated three shifts in the third. He missed practice Tuesday -- a maintenance day, Ruff called it -- and may not play Wednesday.

Ruff said the team would call up a player from the AHL Portland Pirates, if need be, probably Nathan Gerbe but maybe Mark Mancari (6-foot-3, 225) if they want some size. A lot of players will be available if the Manchester Monarchs sweep the Pirates on Tuesday night in Manchester.

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