Friday, August 01, 2014

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Adversity to overcome in Washington

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Sabres fans are starting to get a little worried. A lack of secondary scoring, troublesome faceoffs, and sloppy defensive play allowed the Hurricanes to complete a home-and-home sweep.

Now at 2-2, the Sabres have a Sunday afternoon faceoff in Washington. And they'll be facing a desperate Capitals team, who's winless in their first four games.

The Sabres, of course, are coming off that ugly 3-1 loss at the hands of the Hurricanes Friday night. The Sabres registered 41 shots and scored another power play goal, but were unable to capitalize on the other scoring chances. It's left them searching for answers.

"I think there's a lot of strange things going on: with our team, with a lot of teams," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "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."

"We might be trying to generate too much offense, going on the offensive side of things a little too quick, getting caught and they're going the other way," added captain Jason Pominville. "At the same time, guys want to get on the board. Guys want to produce. But, like we talked about (before), you've got to play well defensively first and your chances will come."

There's no debating that one of the Sabres biggest struggles this season has been an inability to perform in the faceoff circle. And that cost them at least a point in Friday night's loss to the Hurricanes. It's one of the byproducts of having young centermen. Tyler Ennis lost a third period, defensive zone faceoff - clean. The resulting play saw Jay Harrison score the goal that completed the sweep. They'll need improvement. The Sabres are last in the league in faceoff percentage.

"I think you look at centers a lot of times when you look at faceoffs," said Pominville. "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."

Through the first four games of the season, the Sabres have scored 11 goals, and Thomas Vanek has been on the ice for every one of them. That's both a credit to his fast start and an indictment on the Sabres' secondary scoring troubles. Entering Sunday, Vanek was tied for the NHL scoring lead with three goals and nine points. The 29 year old suffered a muscle strain in Friday's game but is expected to be in the lineup Sunday.

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