While it may have been effective last season, one of Buffalo’s power play units has been struggling as of late, earning a warning from Lindy Ruff.
“The coach has patience, but I don’t know how much,” Ruff laughed.
The unit Ruff is concerned with, comprised of Thomas Vanek
, Maxim Afinogenov, Derek Roy
, Jason Pominville
and Nathan Paetsch, has failed to live up to expectations this season with the man advantage.
Roy, Vanek and Afinogenov have just two points with the man advantage combined. In 2006-07, the trio combined for 28 goals and 56 points on the power play.
“That pretty much sums it [up] I think,” said Roy. "We’re getting a lot of the pucks through, but we’re just not getting the bounces. We’ve just got to work for it, keep working and retrieving… keep it simple.”
The Sabres have scored 11 power play goals on 56 chances in 10 games this year. They are currently ranked 11th in the league with a 19.6 power play percentage.
That is a steady improvement from last season when the Sabres were ranked 17th in the NHL with a 17.4 power play percentage.
The only issue is that the Sabres other power-play unit - Brian Campbell, Tim Connolly, Paul Gaustad, Ales Kotalik and Jaroslav Spacek - have netted 10 of this season's power-play scores.
“But we still think we can be better,” said Jason Pominville
. “That goes for everything… we’ve got to keep working at it.”
Roy believes that includes staying disciplined with the man advantage.
“I think a couple of times we’ve taken penalties on the power play… which we can’t do,” he said. “We’ve got to be conscientious about our penalties and about what we’re going to be doing out there.”
“We’ve seen through video that they’ve had some real good power plays where they should have scored and they haven’t scored,” Ruff said of the unit. “If [retrieval and puck movement] was quicker and we didn’t play quite as much one-on-one, I think they would get better opportunities.”
Buffalo’s special teams may get a jump-start Thursday in Boston if Spacek gets his first start since Oct. 15. Spacek, who has missed four games with a shoulder injury, leads the team with three power play goals this season and is eager to get back into the lineup.
Ruff, meanwhile, is anxious for his top power play unit to produce. Playing the Bruins may help as the Sabres have enjoyed some success, going 6-0 last year against Boston and scoring on 25.6 percent of power play chances.
There were only two teams in the Eastern Conference that the Sabres had a better percentage against in the 2006-07 season- the New York Islanders (26.1) and the Philadelphia Flyers (41.2).
The Bruins' penalty kill are 22nd in the league with a 80 percent success rate.
“With quick puck movement and maybe a little bit better tenacity, I think they will have success,” Ruff said. “The point is I’m going to stick with them. They were a very good power play unit for us last year and I think they’ll come out of it.”
“You just have to get the positive energy out of it. If it’s a couple shots on net or a couple plays that were made just keep the momentum up,” Roy said. “We’ve just got to move the puck.”