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Sabres waiting on more production from Boyes

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- When the Buffalo Sabres sent a second-round draft pick to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline to acquire Brad Boyes, the hope was he would add offense to a team that always could use another player who can put the puck in the net.
It worked OK during the regular season, as he scored 5 goals in his first 10 games. Since then, however, it's been a struggle for the one-time 40-goal scorer.
Boyes finished the regular season with 6 points in his final 11 games, and hasn't found the score sheet in the first four games of the Sabres' Eastern Conference quarterfinal-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. He'll go into Game 5 Friday here at the Wells Fargo Center (7:30 p.m., VERSUS, TSN, RDS) looking for his first goal in 15 games.
Boyes said he's trying not to think about his scoring issues too much.
"Sometimes thinking too much isn't the greatest thing," he said. "If I can, keep a clear head and just get back to basics and put pucks on net."
Keeping a clear head, however, is the challenge. Boyes is being depended on as a scorer, and if he's not putting pucks in the net, there's a feeling that he isn't doing his job. The concern then becomes that he starts to press too much and try too hard to score.
"We're just trying to get him to relax," teammate Mike Grier, who skated alongside Boyes and Cody McCormick at Friday's morning skate, told "I think playing with me and Cody, it's helped him a little bit. We're just playing a straight-ahead game and that's helping him simplify. He wants to score, he knows he was brought here to supply offense and he wants to provide that for the team. We're telling him to play his game and eventually things will go in."

Part of Boyes' problem could be a shift from the wing to center, a position he hadn't played since he was traded by San Jose to Boston during the 2003-04 season.
"I'm sure he's not overly comfortable (at center)," Grier said. "I think he's been playing wing for the last while … so I'm sure he's not completely comfortable. And in our system center is a tough position. You've got a lot of responsibilities and a lot of work to do. I'm sure he's thinking out there more than reacting."
Boyes agreed that re-learning a position while learning new teammates and new style of play could be part of the reason for his scoring drought, but coach Lindy Ruff said he still needs to see some production from him.
"I don't run around looking for excuses for lack of production," Ruff said. "I just think there's opportunities that have presented themselves that he hasn't taken advantage of. Whether you're playing wing or center, when you're in the offensive zone, you're not a winger and you're not a centerman, you're a player. … Once you're in there it's fighting to be a screen on the point shot, it's taking advantage of some of those down-low opportunities to get the puck to the net, and really that's all it is."
Boyes said he's staying positive by working on other facets of his game.
"You've got to do work away from the puck," he said. "Be good on the other side -- defensively, faceoffs are something I'm trying to be good at. Things like that. If scoring's not going, there are other things that are part of the game that you have to be responsible with."
And in the back of his mind, he believes that one good shot, one lucky bounce, is all he needs to break through.
"I hope so," he said. "I'm working on it."
The Doorman speaketh -- Patrick Kaleta has gotten a lot of attention in this series for a number of reasons. The latest was an incident late in Game 4 where he opened the bench door while Flyers forward Nikolay Zherdev was being checked into it. Zherdev fell into the Sabres' bench, but wasn't hurt.
The incident was one of the first things reporters asked about following Friday's morning skate, with some Buffalo media folks giving Kaleta the nickname "The Doorman."
Kaleta said it wasn't intentional, that there was a line going on and he was just being polite by opening the door for his teammates to change.
"It probably wouldn't be getting this much publicity if it wasn't me," Kaleta told reporters. "But in no way was it intentional. There was a line change going on. You pop the door open and slide down. You don't want there to be a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty.
"I didn't expect anyone to be in our bench but it was kind of funny. Just because I did it, people think I did it on purpose, but I was there and flipped (the latch) up and whatever. They were scrumming, but you never expect anybody to be there. You're on a change, you pop it open and slide down and let the player come in.
"It's what you do. You do it so many times you kind of take it for granted."
Shoot the puck! -- Boyes isn't the only Sabres player Ruff expects more from offensively. Tim Connolly has just 2 assists and no goals in the first four games of the series.
He has eight shots in the series, but when asked if he would like to see Connolly shoot the puck more, Ruff replied, "I think I used that exact phrase (shoot the puck) last night when I talked to him."
Ruff has lauded Connolly's defensive play in the series, but said his team needs more on the other end.
"I thought that he passed up some good (offensive) opportunities," Ruff said. "He's trying to make it too difficult. You look at the power play last game, where he was all alone, tried to pass it back and you do that, you'll wind up at the end of the series, you won't have any goals. He's defended well, he's killed penalties for us (but) he has a playmaking mentality that sometimes hurts him."
Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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