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Special teams get a little R & R

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Ryan O’Reilly. Rasmus Ristolainen. They’re the common thread to the success of the Sabres’ power play and penalty kill units.

Both players are averaging the most ice time for each unit, Ristolainen with 5:35 of power play time and 3:08 of penalty kill time and O’Reilly with 5:18 with the man advantage and 2:01 on the penalty kill. The tandem excels at cycling the puck and finding open teammates.

A strong penalty kill and power play can offer a distinct advantage in a razor-thin “any team can win on any given night” league. So it’s nice to see the Sabres as one of only three teams currently sitting among the top 10 in the league in both categories. The power play has scored four times in 16 opportunities, good for eighth in the league, while their penalty kill is a perfect nine-for-nine, tied for the league best.

Last season, O’Reilly was the only player in the NHL to average more than two minutes on the penalty kill while also averaging more than three minutes on the power play.

The unit of Ristolainen, O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart and Matt Moulson have scored all four of the team’s power play goals.

“ You talk about keys to winning hockey games and winning the special teams battle in the game as a big factor. Unfortunately, we’ve won all three games but only have one win to show for it.” – Dan Bylsma

Tonight, the Sabres take on the Vancouver Canucks, a team that is 3-0 on the year. However, the Canucks are one of only three teams that have yet to convert with a man advantage.

The Sabres have already earned three out of four points on their Western Canada road trip. A five-for-six trip would give them a boost before heading back to the east coast to visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

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