The Buffalo Sabres want to boost their power-play numbers and focused on the man advantage for a good portion of practice Thursday afternoon at First Niagara Center.
At one end of the ice, the Sabres focused on their special-teams play, particularly 5-on-3 situations.
Assistant coach Bryan Trottier is in charge of the power play and emphasized that the skaters on the man advantage need to play with confidence and work hard every shift.
“We get a little stationary. We did a lot better job today of getting more motion, get everyone involved and use the whole ice,” Ennis said. “We put a lot of time into it so we’ve got to be better. “
Buffalo is 2-for-46 on the power play (4.4 percent) and to improve, Sabres coach Ted Nolan has been getting the players to do concentrate on the basics like putting pucks and bodies to the net.
“Sometimes when you’re pressing, you try to do too much,” he said. “You try to make those long passes so one thing we tried to do today is really simplify it and make those short passes.”
Drew Stafford tallied on the power play on Wednesday against Montreal after Tyler Myers crashed the net from the point to battle for a losse puck that ended up on Stafford's stick. Ennis compared Myers’ presence to that of Boston Bruins’ defenseman Zdeno Chara. While Myers stands 6-foot-8, 219 pounds, Chara is the only player in the League that’s taller – checking in at 6-foot-9, 255 pounds.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can make plays but we want a lot to go through Mysie. We want him shooting that puck and making those plays,” Ennis said.
“You see Chara sometimes plays the net-front in Boston. Mysie, I think is more mobile than Chara so if he can make his way to the net quicker and take a few guys with him and find someone for a goal then that helps our power play.”
The Sabres will host the Edmonton Oilers at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Jhonas Enroth will start in goal.
17 Torrey Mitchell – 63 Tyler Ennis – 80 Chris Stewart
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
22 Johan Larsson – 8 Cody McCormick – 65 Brian Flynn – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
41 Andrej Meszaros – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 24 Tyson Strachan
6 Mike Weber – 61 Andre Benoit
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth
31 Matt Hackett
Nolan has been pleased with Deslauriers’ play of late and bumped him up from the fourth line.
“You like to reward people and he’s doing a good job,” Nolan said. “Plus, it creates some more energy on our team and one thing he does bring is some energy.”
The team will likely make one lineup change on defense.
Marcus Foligno did not skate. He’s missed the past two games due to injury. He skated on his own before practice Thursday and Nolan said Foligno will take the morning skate on Friday. His status for the game against Edmonton is doubtful and Nolan hopes he’ll be ready to go against the Penguins on Saturday.
Nolan also said that Patrick Kaleta is getting closer to returning. Kaleta caught a slap shot in the face in the preseason and needed surgery to repair the damage. He’s been practicing with the team, but hasn’t been cleared to return to game action.
“He’s getting closer and closer,” Nolan said. “Today he got so close he broke a couple sticks in practice. So the frustration’s getting more but we’ve still got to wait for the doctor to give him the 100-percent OK.”
#HOCKEYFIGHTSCANCER NIGHT ON FRIDAY
The Sabres will again take part in the NHL Hockey Fights Cancer program during the team’s game, presented by ECMC, on Friday.
As part of an NHL-wide initiative to raise money and awareness for cancer research, the Sabres will be hosting events throughout the night with the help of local cancer patients and their charitable organizations.
Fans attending the game will have the opportunity to purchase “RJ” hats for $20 in honor of Rick Jeanneret and his fight against cancer. The hats have been donated by New Era Cap Company and will be sold before the game and until they are sold out. A portion of the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the cancer care and research.
To commemorate the night, all Sabres players will wear purple jerseys and use sticks with purple tape during warm-ups, and the jerseys and sticks will be auctioned off on NHL.com immediately following the game to benefit cancer care and research.
There will also be a ceremonial puck drop before the game, so fans are strongly encouraged to be in their seats early.
Hockey Fights Cancer is a charitable initiative founded in December 1998 by the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players’ Association. It is supported by players, NHL member clubs, NHL alumni, the NHL Officials’ Association, professional hockey athletic trainers and equipment managers, corporate marketing partners, broadcast partners and fans throughout North America.
More details about what fans can expect during the game can be found here.