BUFFALO – The Sabres’ power play is awful, and their legions of fans know it. Not only does it rank 30th, it’s operating at a paltry 11.2 percent. No one else is lower than 13 percent.
In Tuesday’s 3-1 triumph over the New York Rangers, the Sabres blew all five opportunities and allowed another short-handed goal, their NHL-high fifth this season.
During one third-period chance, they iced the puck and went offside in the first 61 seconds, drawing the ire of the capacity crowd of 19,070 fans inside the First Niagara Center.
To Sabres winger Steve Ott, the booing was the only mark on a strong win, the Sabres’ 10th this season.
“Only thing you could ask for maybe is to get a little bit of (the) fans’ support when you’re winning 2-1 and they’re booing you,” Ott, who has made similar comments on Twitter, said Tuesday. “You tend to make the team lose a little bit of energy, and in those certain instances you wish you’d get some energy from your fans.
“But other than that, I thought the team in here stayed composed. We played extremely well. I think from the goalie out we defended well tonight, and I thought it was the difference.”
The power play – something interim coach Ron Rolston called a “work in progress” – could’ve been the difference in the four consecutive one-goal losses the Sabres brought into Tuesday.
“That’s been the story of this last stretch, where we’ve been in how many one-goal games?” Rolston asked. “We need that to be the difference right now in hockey games. You get even two tonight, you’re not going into the third at 2-1.”
With the Sabres struggling so badly on the man advantage, Rolston has made some interesting personnel choices. The second forward unit much of Tuesday consisted of Brian Flynn, Kevin Porter and Drew Stafford, who have a combined four goals this season and zero on the power play.
Despite some foibles against the Rangers, Ott thought the units generated some chances.
“How many scoring chances did we have (Tuesday)? Cody Hodgson has two goals on his stick. So you tell me,” Ott said to a reporter. “I mean, those two goals go in, our power play looks like a million bucks. No one freaking remembers that offside. Who cares about that other (stuff)? We’ll continue to work on it. I think we’ll continue to get better on it. It can’t get any worse, right?”
The Sabres’ power play is zero of its last eight in the past three games and three of 39 in the past 11 contests. The team converted two of its 14 chances during the four-game skid.
Naturally, the Sabres’ 13th-place standing will lead to trade speculation. On Tuesday, former player Nick Kypreos, an analyst on Sportsnet, a Canadian cable network, said goalie Ryan Miller’s name is starting to “float around.” The Sabres “dearly” want to move him before April 3 trade deadline, he noted.
Kypreos cited no sources.
“He’s not going to get a contract extension, and it’s time to move on off of Ryan Miller,” he said.
Miller has one year and $6.25 million left on his contract after this season.
“Ryan Miller’s days are numbered in Buffalo,” Kypreos said, adding he could be moved this summer or next season.
Miller can submit a list of eight teams he could refuse a trade to, according to capgeek.com.
When rumors swirled last season, Miller passionately made it known he wanted to stay in Buffalo, saying, “This is where I wanted to win.”
Defenseman Jordan Leopold returned from a 10-game absence (injury, healthy scratches) Tuesday, skating 19:16.
“I liked his game,” Rolston said. “I thought he was pretty steady back (there). He hasn’t played in a while, and our message was, ‘You know, you don’t have to come back in and obviously save the team. We just want you to come back in and start to build.’ I thought he was good in our zone. He was good in his battles down low. His coverage was good. …
“He’s got poise back there, so he can make a good first pass to get us out of the zone. But I thought it was a real good first step for him.”
Sabres winger Marcus Foligno on his first goal Tuesday, a score in which he grabbed Christian Ehrhoff’s hard shot off the end boards beside the net and backhanded the puck between his own legs before quickly shooting it: “It’s just something that you try in practice, and maybe you get a time in a game you get to do it.”
Foligno scored again later, giving him more goals in one game than he had in his first 25 this season.
In his return from a healthy scratch Tuesday, 18-year-old rookie Mikhail Grigorenko skated a season-low 4:51 on the fourth line between John Scott and Nathan Gerbe.
The Sabres had Wednesday off.