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Special Teams Struggles Continue

Friday, 01.05.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Buffalo Sabres | Press Release
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Special Teams Struggles Continue
Frustration is beginning to compound with the struggling special teams play of the Buffalo Sabres and those woes are costing the team victories.

Buffalo lost back-to-back games for just the second time this season as the power play and penalty kill sputtered in a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.

"It's obvious we're pressing," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "Guys with good hands are making poor plays, poor decisions. We've got to work our way through it.

"Guys that normally handle [the puck] really well, didn't handle it so well, and you'll end up with some pretty ineffective power plays."

"It's frustrating and I'm not going to say it's not," said defenseman Brian Campbell. "But we're taking the steps where we need to be and we're sticking together."

During the current two-game losing streak, Buffalo has allowed five power-play goals - two against Pittsburgh - while only scoring a pair.

The power play turned into Jekyll and Hyde with a Penguin in the box, looking like a dynamic, cohesive unit one minute and discombobulated the next. Buffalo did extend their streak to six games with a power-play goal, but are converting on 18.7 per cent of their chances in that span.

"We worked hard on it [Thursday] and I think you saw some good things," said Ruff. "Obviously, there is heightened awareness with our power play not making the difference right now, so you are going to expect some of the boos when you are ineffective.

"What you need to guard against is letting that frustration effect how hard you work on the ice. We want to make sure that we out-work and out-play the other team."

Derek Roy ended an 11-game goal drought with a one-timer with six minutes remaining in the first period to give Buffalo the 1-0 lead.

Floating to the right face-off dot, Roy launched a fired Toni Lydman's pass from the point over Marc-Andre Fleury's outstretched glove for his sixth goal of the season at 14:44.

With what could be considered a five-on-three advantage after Jason Pominville snapped his stick, Pittsburgh tied the game off a great feed by Sid the Kid.

On their first power play of the game, Sidney Crosby found Ryan Whitney with an across-ice pass through traffic for the one-timer and his seventh goal of the season at 7:26 of the second.

"We just have to work a little bit harder still, have a little more execution and make a couple of plays where we had passes and guys open," said Campbell. "It all comes down to that."

A testament to the Sabres struggling special teams, Buffalo's best sniper with the man advantage - Chris Drury - scored his first PP goal in 15 games at 10:50 of the second to make the score 2-1 in favor of Buffalo.

Paul Gaustad held Fleury's clearing pass deep with a flying leap against the end boards, allowing Daniel Briere to find Buffalo's other co-captain for 21st goal of the season with an across-crease pass.

"It wasn't pretty, but that's the type of goal that's being scored right now," said Ruff.

After Evgeni Malkin calmly skated between four Sabres through the slot, Josef Melichar fired a slapshot from the point to create the rebound opportunity for Jordan Staal, who buried the puck for his 12th of the season at 13:39 of the second.

With 2.3 seconds remaining before the second intermission, Malkin gave Pittsburgh their first lead of the game. Sliding up from the blueline, Malkin blew a blistering slapshot over Ryan Miller's glove and spun to celebrate his 19th of the season in Ovechkin-like fashion, twirling his glove in the air. Miller took the loss after stopping 23-of-26 shots.

Dominic Moore added the empty netter at 19:47.

"We can't worry about the things around us, whether it's getting asked [about special teams] every day," said Campbell. "We've got to keep pushing and that's what this team has done the last couple of years."
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