Our week long season preview continues with a look at the Buffalo Sabres special teams. If you missed the first three installments of the preview, you can check them out here, here, and here.
The Buffalo Sabres special teams finished 9th in the league on the power play with a conversion rate of 19.4% and finished 13th in the league on the penalty kill with a kill rate of 83.0%. Two of the top five leaders in time on ice on the penalty kill were Mike Grier and Steve Montador, who are no longer with the team. The team also allowed the third most shorthanded goals last season with 13. What exactly will the special teams look like this season though?
The Sabres power play should have a new look to it thanks to a bunch of new faces in the organization. To start, the Sabres let go assistant coach Brian McCutcheon who was one of the main role players in how the power play was run. Also, Christian Ehrhoff was the leading defenseman for the Canucks on their power play with a total of 3:33/game of power play time and 28 points on the power play. For the Sabres last season, 28 points would have been tied for the team lead with Thomas Vanek.
During this preseason, the Sabres have rolled out power play lines with three forwards and two defensemen on each of the power play lines. The Sabres top PP unit should feature Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff.
The Sabres penalty kill will have some new faces to go along with it as well. With top penalty killers Grier and Montador moved on, enter new defenseman Robyn Regehr. Regehr was a key member to the Flames penalty kill, spending 3:12/game on the penalty kill for the Flames. The Flames finished the season with a penalty will rate of 81.2% which was good for 21st in the league.
The Sabres also need to figure out how to shore up the imbalance in their shorthanded goals scored versus goals allowed department as well. The Sabres allowed one of the league worst 13 last season and only scored two shorthanded goals. Nothing is worse than killing a team's momentum by allowing the opponent to score a shorthanded goal, so the -11 in that department is a black mark for this team's special teams.