Saturday, December 20, 2014

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Vanek NHL's Best but Sabres Search to End Struggles

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BUFFALO, N.Y. - It's time for the Sabres to get back on track. They're in Ottawa Tuesday night - and need to snap out of a skid in which the hockey club has recorded just one win in seven games.

The struggles come at a time when the top line couldn't be better. On Monday, Thomas Vanek was named the NHL's first star of the week, after posting five goals and 10 points in the last four games.

Vanek has been in on 71 percent of the Sabres goals so far this season. He's leading the NHL with 19 points. The Sabres have found a top line in Vanek, Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville. But they're really needing secondary scoring and wins.

"I think I found two guys that I feel real comfortable with and again right now I think the passes we make a lot of them go in, the shots we take obviously," Vanek said. "But again it doesn't matter, you do well and you lose games, it doesn't feel good."

"I mean we have something special that we have a line that, as they say in Spanish, 'en fuego'. Everybody else would be jealous of that line right now," head coach Lindy Ruff said.

"But now we don't have the secondary (scoring)," Ruff added. "So now we're jealous of the secondary (scoring) around the league when the league's looking around going 'holy man they got a line that is hot as any line in the league'. You love having that because that line goes out and has so much confidence and makes so many plays and they're playing so well together. Now we gotta find the other side of it again."

The Sabres went through a partially optional skate Monday - they face divisional opponents in five of their next six matchups. And since all games this year are against Eastern Conference foes, every game can swing the standings.

"Yeah it's a good chance for us to erase what's happened," forward Tyler Ennis said. "We gotta have, starting tomorrow, a big start and I think everyone's looking forward to making a statement."

"I don't think it should matter who we're playing," defenseman Tyler Myers said. "There aren't games against the Western Conference where we can gain points on teams like normal. Perfect opportunity with teams in our own division to gain some ground here."

Patrick Kaleta is progressing from his neck injury and is close to getting back on the ice. He may skate on his own Tuesday. There's still concern over Ville Leino, as he's trying another different type of treatment for his hip. The forward has yet to play this season. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP