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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Matt Ellis (Photo: Bill Wippert)
The Buffalo Sabres are trying out two new frontmen on the power play.

After cashing in on only one of 12 chances with the extra attacker in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the team focused on special teams Thursday afternoon; this time with Matt Ellis and Drew Stafford in front of the crease.

  Matt Ellis: Audio | Video
  Lindy Ruff: Audio | Video
  Drew Stafford: Audio | Video

“After eight power plays we had 16 pucks to the net, but nobody around the net,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said. “It wasn’t good enough.

“Too many times last night we were on the perimeter… shooting from the perimeter, and there was nobody inside.”

The Sabres’ only power play goal in the loss came on a two-man advantage when Ales Kotalik shot a puck from the point past Ottawa’s Brian Elliott early in the third period.

In part, injuries could be to blame with Thomas Vanek [jaw] and Paul Gaustad [upper body] out of the lineup. Both players were utilized in front of the net on the power play- Vanek leads the team in that category with 15 goals.

“It is actually kind of tough,” Stafford said. “It’s a matter of balancing; trying to know when to support, when to get off and be an outlet and knowing when to be in front. Then also knowing when the puck comes whether or not to stay or turn around for the rebound.

“You look at Vanek, how good he is at that… and a guy like [Detroit’s] Thomas Holmstrom, who is just pretty much the master of it all. It’s something that we have to do, get better at, and something that’s new for me.”

Netminder Patrick Lalime was happy to help, offering advice to Stafford and Ellis during practice. His recommendation? Just play goal.

“There is the mirror goalie [school of thought], like you’re playing goal,” Ruff said. “Just treat the shot like you’re the goalie. In that case you’re going to be able to screen them and he’s going to have to look around you.

“There is some great advice there. They [the goaltenders] are the ones that have to fight through the vision. They are the ones that know whether the guy in front of them is giving them a tough enough time.”

Stafford practiced on a line with Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Jaroslav Spacek.

Ellis was on the secondary unit with Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht, Ales Kotalik and Craig Rivet.

 “It’s got to be a no-fear kind of role,” Ellis said. “You have to go out there and expect to take a pounding.

“I’m definitely familiar with getting pounded on out there and I don’t mind going to those areas and taking a few. It actually gets you kind of revved up and into the game… it’s part of the game, it’s a role that’s pretty important. If I end up there I’m going to do my best.”

Both Stafford and Ellis admit Thursday’s practice was their first time in that role.

“We’re going to have to continue to work on it,” Ruff said. “Even today there wasn’t a lot of pucks tipped, but there was a lot of compete around the net which is better. I think that with the absence of a couple of guys who are pretty good around the front of the net, we’re going to just have to keep working on getting more pucks there, looking for rebounds and looking for those opportunities.”

Teppo Numminen participated in the skate after leaving Wednesday’s contest with an upper body injury.

Mike Weber was reassigned to the AHL Portland Pirates.

Ruff said defenseman Andrej Sekera is ready to return to the lineup after missing the last 12 games with an ankle injury, leaving Weber as the odd man out.

Weber has played seven games for the Sabres this season.
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