Buffalo Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan has been on the job for almost two weeks now and continues to work on getting players settled in on his systems and the types of things he expects from them.
In addition to even-strength play, the power play is an aspect of the game the team looks to continue to improve on. The Sabres are 3-for-15 with 25 shots on goal with the man-advantage in the five games since Nolan was put in charge.
The team spent time working on the power play Tuesday morning at First Niagara Center in preparation for their home game against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The first unit featured Matt Moulson, Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis up front with Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff at the points. Ville Leino, Steve Ott, Drew Stafford, Brayden McNabb and Mark Pysyk made up the second unit, with Luke Adam rotating in and out.
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Nolan said that in order to be successful, the units need to keep making simple plays and generate more traffic in the areas around the crease.
“We’re not setting the League on fire so we have to make sure we simplify our game and that’s in all aspects of it, whether it’s 5-on-5 or power play,” he said. “We just have to make sure we do the simple things, get shots on net, create some rebounds. A majority of the goaltenders in this league will stop you even if you have a point-blank shot from the slot. We have to create some traffic in front of it.”
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The team spent time working on maintaining possession in the offensive third with the man advantage and reading the types of defensive coverage they’re facing.
“You just have to take what they give you. Every team is pretty much the same,” Leino said. “They pressure when they don’t have possession, they’re trying to block shots and so on.”
Nolan has talked about how the trust level on the ice may not be very high at the moment, but he said Tuesday that he’s seen progress in that regard the past few days.
“I see it growing, not on leaps and bounds, but I see it growing every day. The guys are getting a little bit more comfortable in what’s expected and using their ability, which they have, he said. “Ville Leino’s, I think, a really highly skilled player but he was playing a little bit differently than what his skill set is. So we’ve got to get him back to that. I think it all has to do with comfort zone.”
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One of the first changes Nolan made to the lineup when he took over behind the bench on Nov. 13 was moving Leino back to center ice.
“It’s been pretty good. It’s a lot more work in the defensive zone so you don’t really get to rest at all but it’s been better,” Leino said. “I think last game for me was pretty good even though there was not a lot of goals or so, but it’s been better and I feel more comfortable.”
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In trying to foster an atmosphere in which players can thrive out of familiarity, the Sabres once again practiced with no changes to the line combinations or defensive pairings. Left wing Matt Moulson has skated almost exclusively with center Hodgson since the team acquired him from the New York Islanders on Oct. 27. Stafford has been their linemate as of late.
“The more you play with guys, the more you feel comfortable out there,” Moulson said. “I know it’s definitely the case with myself, I think. The more you get to know guys, their tendencies, it makes reading and reacting a lot easier out there.”
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
63 Tyler Ennis – 23 Ville Leino – 9 Steve Ott
72 Luke Adam – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
82 Marcus Foligno – 65 Brian Flynn – 78 Corey Tropp
32 John Scott
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 52 Alexander Sulzer
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
44 Brayden McNabb – 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber – 4 Jamie McBain
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth