Drew Stafford hasn't scored yet this season. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Ruff trying to keep struggling Stafford ‘in the right place’

BUFFALO – It was an epic miss magnified by his 14-game, season-long goal drought. On a three-on-two break during Tuesday’s 2-0 loss in Ottawa, struggling Sabres winger Drew Stafford misfired on a one-timer with a yawning net ahead, blowing a glorious chance to end his slump.

“I think everyone saw the highlight of him missing, just heeling what would’ve been a wide-open one-timer you’d almost think was right in the wheelhouse,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center.

Ruff’s confident Stafford will catch fire. The 27-year-old’s a notoriously streaky scorer. He scored seven goals in 10 games in March. He scored 19 times over a 25-game stretch, including two hat tricks against Boston, Friday’s opponent, during his career-best 31-goal season in 2010-11.

“I try to do my best to keep Drew in the right place so he doesn’t get too frustrated,” Ruff said. “ … We’ve seen him go from where he’s at this year, the same as last year, he gets on a run, it’s incredibly hot. I’ve seen (Thomas Vanek) go through some really tough stretches and then get incredibly hot. It tends to happen with a lot of good goal scorers.

“For him, it’s just to keep working, it’s to bear down on some of those opportunities, and he has been around the net more for maybe those ones that aren’t going to be pretty.”

Tyler Ennis, Stafford’s center, added: “Everyone’s been in his shoes at one point in his career. Everyone goes through it. Sometimes pucks just don’t go in. When they start going in they’ll go in bunches.”

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