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Improved scoring, shot prevention top Sabres list

by Joe Yerdon

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

BUFFALO – Success can be hard to come by and it has different definitions depending on the point of view. For the Buffalo Sabres, a successful 2014-15 season may not be hard to create.

The Sabres made several veteran additions in the offseason. Forwards Brian Gionta, Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick joined the ranks, along with defenseman Andrej Meszaros, and defenseman Josh Gorges was added via trade with the Montreal Canadiens.

Things could be looking up in Buffalo.

"The type of players they are and not only are they going to bring a good game on the ice, but a lot of the guys are veteran guys that'll bring experience to the locker room I think we needed," defenseman Tyler Myers said. "Watching what happened this summer with us, I'm really excited with the direction we're heading."

The Sabres' ability to improve on their League-worst 52-point performance in 2013-14 shouldn't be hard to do, but here are a few things they'll need to see get better:

1. Increased scoring by any means possible – The Sabres had a League-low 150 goals last season, good for 1.83 goals per game. Even on the power play things didn't go well. They scored 36 times on the man advantage and converted just 14.1 percent of their chances. Only the Florida Panthers were worse with the extra man.

"With guys getting moved, getting out of the lineup, signing new guys, there were a lot of tryouts for spots it seemed even later on in the year or mix and matching the lineup quite a bit," forward Drew Stafford said. "We struggled mightily, obviously. It's one of those things where you just had to keep showing up and trying your best, but fortunately we get somewhat of a fresh start here."

By adding Gionta and Moulson, as well as potentially bringing 2014 first-round pick Sam Reinhart into the fold, there should be more goals. If Tyler Ennis can continue to develop, and Marcus Foligno and Chris Stewart show consistency as power forwards, the offense won't be as anemic.

Ted Nolan Ted Nolan and the Sabres should benefit from some newcomers and a full season together. (Photo: Getty Images)

2. Cut down on shots against – The Sabres were 28th in the League in shots against and allowed 34.3 shots per game. Improved puck possession is something that would come in handy in a big way in Buffalo. It would also help them out offensively.

The additions made on defense and a full season of coach Ted Nolan at the helm should help the situation. At the very least there'll be some competition for spots on the blue line.

"I think it's good, we needed a change I think," defenseman Mike Weber said. "Just from getting to know the [new] guys a little bit here the past couple of weeks, we've brought in character guys and quality guys so that's good to see. Then again, we've got five, six young guys that could contend for a starting position, too."

3. A repeat performance in goal – The Sabres benefitted greatly from the play of Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth. Miller's outstanding play helped keep them in more than a few games they should've been blown out.

"The last couple years it's been Ryan's team obviously so this year it's a pretty even battle here," Enroth said. "I feel like I have a very good chance to play a lot of games here so I'm very excited for that."

Now with Miller gone, it's up to Enroth and Michal Neuvirth to try and come close to the numbers Miller put up (.923 save percentage) to keep the Sabres afloat. With both of them 25 years old, the competition for starts will be stiff.

"Obviously Jhonas is a great goalie and I respect him, but we are also good friends," Neuvirth said. "It's going to be an exciting season, I think [we're] going to be a good tandem."

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