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Buffalo Sabres Look to Shore up Scoring, Faceoffs Against Washington Capitals

January 27th, 2013 at 9:00 AM
By Paul Lane Sabres 101

The Buffalo Sabres hope the luck of the draw turns to their favor when they play their third straight Southeast Division opponent Sunday afternoon.

The Sabres take the ice at Washington (3 p.m., MSG) having lost two straight to the Carolina Hurricanes. A point of emphasis for the Sabres will be to win more draws. Buffalo enters the game dead-last in the NHL with a 40.6 percent faceoff percentage. A particular killer was Tyler Ennis' third-period faceoff loss to jay Harrison in the third period Friday that allowed for the game-winning goal.

'233-1' photo (c) 2011, grilled cheese - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Sabres captain/winger Jason Pominville said the blame should be shared for that dismal number:

"I think you look at centers a lot of times when you look at faceoffs. I don't think it only relies on them. It relies on everyone around the puck who can try to get loose pucks, get pucks back …  I think it's overall, everyone has to be better, not only put the blame on the centermen."

Buffalo is also to look for an infusion of scoring. The top line of Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Cody Hodgson has accounted for nine of Buffalo's 11 goals this season (they have three each). Only Steve Ott and Tyler Myers have added goals so far in 2013, a trend coach Lindy Ruff said will turn around as players get their skating legs back. The Sabres have gotten their fair share of pucks on the net – 41 in Friday's loss and 33.8 per game for the year, fourth in the NHL – but now it's a matter of getting them in.

"I think there's a lot of strange things going on with our team, with a lot of teams," Ruff said. "You don't know where your players were and what level they were at when you got them in here. I think we've seen some stuff that we're not happy with, that we're really going to have to improve on."

Ruff may look to switching up the lines to trigger that change. Mikhail Grigorenko and Ott were moved up with Tyler Ennis at Saturday's practice, while Tyler Ennis was dropped to the third line with Jochen Hecht and Patrick Kaleta. Marcus Foligno skated on the top line in place of Vanek, who sat out with a slight muscle strain but is expected to play Sunday. Hecht is still likely out of the lineup with a lingering injury that's kept him out the entire season so far.

The Sabres will have to overcome a desperate Capitals team if they're going to get their second road win of the season. The Caps are last in the Southeast with a 0-3-1 record and have only managed eight goals to opponents' 17, worst in the league. Mike Ribiero paces the team with one goal and three assists. Michal Neuvirth (0-1-1, 3.37 GAA) and Braden Holtby (0-2-0, 5.03 GAA) have split goaltending duties thus far. Their last game was a 3-2 overtime loss Friday to the Devils.

Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Hockey, NHL

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