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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres
Thomas Vanek leads the Sabres with 19 power play points (Photo: Bill Wippert)
The Buffalo Sabres’ power play unit has quietly snuck up the NHL rankings over the past 12 games to coincide with the team’s 8-3-1 record during that stretch.

Entering play on Dec. 28, Buffalo ranked 20th in the NHL with a 16.3% success rate with the man-advantage on the season.  The team was also sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and had just learned four days earlier that leading scorer Derek Roy, a key power play producer, would be out for four to six months, potentially keeping him out for the remainder of the season.

Four weeks later, the Sabres have found a way to move up eight spots in the overall League power play rankings to 12th by going 11-for-40 (27.5%) with the man advantage in the last 12 games and have also crept up to 10th place in the East.  Buffalo has tallied at least one man-advantage goal in five of the last six games and nine of the last 11. 

Six different Sabres players have netted a power play goal and 10 different players have notched at least one power play point over the last 12 outings.  Thomas Vanek leads the way with seven power play points (3-4-7) during that stretch and has 19 (9-10-19) man-advantage points on the season. 

As Lindy Ruff stated after the win over Montreal last Tuesday, the Sabres are going to need the power play units to score goals in order to continue their recent success.  The evidence to support Ruff’s statement is clear when examining the last 12 games.

In the eight games the Sabres have won, the PP unit has produced at an impressive 36.4% (8-for-22) rate of success.  In the four losses (three regulation, one overtime), that number falls to 16.7% (3-for-18).

That trend holds true throughout the entire season.  In Buffalo’s 22 wins this year, the power play has gone 23-for-83 (27.7%).  In the 26 combined regulation and shootout losses, the power play is just 11-for-98 (11.2%).  Going further, the Sabres are 16-8-1 in games where they score at least one power play goal; 6-13-4 in games where the unit is held scoreless.

It’s no secret that power play success over an extended period of time usually translates into points in the standings.  Given the disparity in Buffalo’s record when they score with the man advantage versus when they don’t, it’s a good sign that the unit is clicking heading into the All-Star break.
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