Taking a cue from the Boston Bruins, the Buffalo Sabres are going to put their 6-foot-8 defenseman in front of the net on the power play.
Tyler Myers will assume a role Bruins captain Zdeno Chara has often filled – that of the primary screen on special teams.
Myers practiced there for the first time on Wednesday, working on his positioning at the top of the blue paint and tipping pucks into the net.
“If you look at the success of Chara, maybe, in front of the net on the Boston power play, he’s a big man. If you put a big man there, it could draw a little bit more attention than trying to cover him on the point,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after practice at First Niagara Center. “It takes two guys to cover him in front of the net so maybe that’ll help spark our power play a little bit.”
The Sabres power play could use a boost. Buffalo is 0-for-9 in their past three games and during the team’s current eight-game losing streak, they are 2-for-21 with the man advantage. On the season, Buffalo is clicking at only 9 percent.
“Obviously we’re all pretty frustrated with the power play given the position we’re in. We have higher expectations for ourselves in that,” Myers said. “Given the position that we are, I feel like this change is quite necessary to get things going. We’ve got to try something. We keep doing the same thing; it’s not working. Hopefully something new will get things going.”
Myers skated with the second unit featuring forwards Matt Moulson and Brian Flynn and defensemen Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros. He said he’s never really been used down low on the power play before and will take any advice and tips along the way.
Tyler Ennis said the team needs to find a way to have a strong sense of urgency but also to be calm with the puck so that they can make the right plays.
“Right now, the important thing is to take that extra second, take a look and get it to the net and be committed to get bodies to the front,” he said. “Get some greasy ones and then get that confidence back.”
GOALS FOR AND AGAINST
In addition to not being able to put one home on the power play, they’ve also allowed a League-high seven shorthanded goals, including one Tuesday night in their 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Turnovers at the blue line have been one of the biggest reasons for the opposition’s chances.
“When you’re worried about something happening, that’s when it usually happens. We need to be better. That’s the bottom line,” Ennis said.
“We can’t have shorthanded goals kill us. That’s killing us lately so you’ve got to man up. You’ve got to man up and make plays. When you have that puck, make a good play with it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting it to the net and get guys in front.”
Buffalo’s scoring troubles aren’t just on the power play, but in even-strength situations as well. During the losing streak, they’ve been shutout once and have scored two goals only twice. The last time they scored four goals in regulation was back on Dec. 15 against Ottawa.
“We have to get hungrier around that net,” alternate captain Matt Moulson said. W”hen pucks aren’t going in, you have to get those dirty goals and jump on opportunities when there are rebounds and pucks lying around there. We haven’t been doing a good job of that.”
A BOOST TO THE LINEUP
The Sabres are getting a bit healthier as Chris Stewart practiced for the second day in a row. He’s recovering from the flu and Nolan said he should be good to go for Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild.
However, the team will wait to see how he feels in the morning before deciding on whether to send down one of their recalls, whether it’s Zac Dalpe, Philip Varone or Matt Ellis.
Captain Brian Gionta will not play as he recovers from an upper-body injury.
Gionta as part of a line with Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell that was able to provide some secondary scoring. However, injuries to Gionta and Mitchell put that on hold and Buffalo has been searching for more offense ever since. Mitchell returned to the lineup for the first time in 12 games on Tuesday.
The team’s top line of Moulson, Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons has been stymied by the opposition as of late.
“We lost our whole second line and when you lost your whole second line, it’s easy to defend one line that was scoring for us – that was Girgensons’ line,” Nolan said. “Especially on the road, it’s tough to get the matchups that you wanted and it’s tough to win with one line that’s scoring.”
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov will be back in after sitting out as a healthy scratch the past two games. Jhonas Enroth will start in goal.
‘I DON’T THINK IT WAS LUCKY’
Prior to their current 13-game slump, they had won 10 of 13 games. Nolan doesn’t believe that winning streak is an aberration and that it’s possible they can replicate that success.
“I don’t think it was lucky,” he said. “When you have a group of healthy guys doing the right thing and doing it to the best of their abilities, anybody can beat anybody on a given night.”
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 21 Drew Stafford – 12 Brian Gionta
19 Cody Hodgson – 84 Philip Varone – 80 Chris Stewart
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 20 Zac Dalpe – 37 Matt Ellis – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Mike Weber – 41 Andrej Meszaros
61 Andre Benoit – 24 Tyson Strachan
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth