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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Drew Stafford (Getty Images)
The Buffalo Sabres have an objective in mind as they prepare to head South and continue their five-game road trip – improve their lagging power play.

The Sabres are ranked 27th in the League in that category, converting only 12.6 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage when away from HSBC Arena, (Montreal, meanwhile, leads the NHL with a 30.1 percent success rate).

With 10 of their remaining 15 games being played on the road, including the next four games, Head Coach Lindy Ruff said his squad is going to focus on changing their special teams.

“I think if you want to point to one thing, it’s the one area that I really haven’t been able to change enough,” Ruff said. “We’re going to continue to work on it… The message I’ve been sending obviously hasn’t been working on the road. We’re trying to change and have been going in a little different direction in the last two or three practices.”

Ruff said part of the issue may rest in the inexperience of a young defense core.

“If you look at it, we’ve got a different makeup,” he said. “Before it was Chris Butler now its Andrej Sekera and Tyler Myers, that are trying to quarterback a power play for the first time in the NHL. That’s not an easy job by any means. Sometimes with this aggressive penalty killing, you’ve got a split second to make a decision that can’t be drawn up on paper. If you find the outlet, we’re going to end up with a good play, if you don’t the puck is down the ice.”

The other issue is simply getting more pucks to the net. Ruff said the team needs to utilize frontmen like Thomas Vanek to redirect shots and gain possession of the rebounds with the man advantage.

“I think we’ve passed up some opportunities when Thomas is there,” Ruff said. “[We have to] just get the puck to him to let him try to do something with it on a tip and a rebound. That’s the area that I’ve been trying to work on with the players.

“I still don’t think we’ve done quite a good enough job power play wise, getting enough pucks around him, but we’re working on it.”

Ruff said he is continuing to alter his strategy during practice in hopes of finding something that works.

“I think my job is to make sure the players don’t get frustrated,” he said. “We’ve changed our game in practice a little bit, but I think we’ve just got to get the familiarity bred a little bit with those players. We’ve sometimes shot when we could have passed, we’ve talked about attacking more… that area is my responsibility. When it comes to improving that, we’ve got to be a little bit better.”

Drew Stafford joined his teammates on the ice Monday afternoon. The winger hasn’t played since suffering a groin injury March 5. Ruff was encouraged by his progress and said Stafford could be ready to go as early as this weekend.

“Treatments have gone well, and his groin is feeling better,” Ruff said. “Obviously we still have to get him in a couple good practices; he hasn’t done a lot of skating.”

Portland Pirates’ Joe DiPenta updated his blog on the Hockey News, discussing the Olympics and remainder of the regular season in the American Hockey League.

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