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Tyler Myers has the ideal mentality to lead a team. He's calm under pressure, aggressive when needed, prudent when it's warranted and refuses to succumb to the highs and lows of success and failure.

It's why the Buffalo Sabres are turning to him to answer almost every question about the team.

Who's going to solidify a defense that lost two key parts? Who will turn around a stagnant power play? Who will ignite an offense that's based on speed and odd-numbered attacks?

The 20-year-old Myers, that's who.

In just his second NHL season, Myers is expected to do everything for the Sabres that goaltender Ryan Miller can't do. The reigning Rookie of the Year is eager for the challenge.

"I know there's high expectations of me from the coaches," Myers said. "I was ready for it this whole summer.

"Staying on an even keel is huge. Last year was great, I can't deny that. But I don't want to get too high. I think last year when I had a bad game I didn't get too low. I think that was a big part of it. When things are going well, great, but there's a new game. It's the same thing the other way. When things are bad, don't worry about it. It's just the same thing this season."

Myers looks more confident this year, which is good considering his self-assuredness with the puck will be a key to the offense. The Sabres will continually encourage one defenseman to join the offense, hoping to overwhelm their opponents with odd-man rushes. They're fine if the aggression costs a breakaway the other way because they have the NHL's best goalie as a security blanket who can smother any mistakes.

"To have that green light from the coaches, it works well with our system," Myers said. "I obviously want to pick my moments to jump in, but I think last year I did a pretty good job of knowing when to stay back and when to jump."

Added coach Lindy Ruff: "It really is part of our attack. We need him getting up, and we encourage a fourth man almost all the time."

If Myers improves the offense and Miller remains as unbeatable as anyone, a second straight Northeast Division title is possible.

"It's definitely something where you want to leave your mark and hang as many banners as you can," Miller said, "set it up so the attitude here is you expect to win, you expect to compete for the Stanley Cup every year."

> Offense

The Sabres ranked ninth in the league in scoring last season, recording 2.82 goals per game. It was a bump from the 12th-place showing the year before, but it's not enough for Ruff.

"Our goal is to try to maybe get 20 more goals out of our team with not hurting the way we play away from the puck," the coach said.

Thomas Vanek could add half that scoring benchmark by himself. The left winger led the team with just 28 goals last season, as injuries knocked 12 tallies off his average of 40 goals the previous three years.

An improved power play would help, too. The Sabres ranked 17th in the 30-team league, scoring 17.6 percent of the time. Myers has been given the quarterback job on the first power-play unit, and he's been fearless in firing shots.

Rookies Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe also will get a chance to bolster the man advantage. Ennis' creativity should open holes in the same way Tim Connolly's can. Gerbe is a quick-shooting sniper who can pick corners.

"Our power play has to get better," center Derek Roy said. "That can win you games."

The Sabres had trouble stopping Boston's key forwards during last season's first-round playoff exit, so they signed Rob Niedermayer to complement defensive forwards Mike Grier and Jochen Hecht. Each member of the big-bodied trio can control pucks in corners and take up space in the defensive zone.

"It's one thing when you can have a big hit to get the boys going, it's another thing when you have consistent pressure and you're getting good zone time and winning battles physically and taking pucks to the net," right wing Drew Stafford said. "We seem to be doing that pretty well."

Paul Gaustad returns as the faceoff ace. He won 57.4 percent of his draws last season, good for sixth in the league.

> Defense

Multiple changes along the blue line have created the Sabres' biggest question marks.

Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman each returned to prominence last season, but they left via free agency. Shaone Morrisonn will fill Tallinder's role as Myers' partner. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has more physical bite than Tallinder and possesses comparable skating ability. Fellow free-agent signee Jordan Leopold is expected to contribute offensively while holding his own in the defensive end.

The Sabres' most watched competition during training camp featured a three-way fight for the final starting job. Unfortunately for the Sabres, there was no runaway winner among Mike Weber, Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera. Butler and Sekera took turns being inconsistent last season as the No. 6 guy. Buffalo needs someone to take solid hold of the job to ease the concerns about the blue line.

"We feel good so far," Myers said. "We'll see when the season gets going here, but through camp and through exhibition I thought as a team defensively we played really well. Obviously, there's some things to build off of, but it's a good start for us."

There are no worries when it comes to the penalty kill. It figures to again be one of the team's main strengths. The Sabres were one kill away from being the NHL's best unit last season, and Niedermayer should help Connolly, Roy, Grier and Jason Pominville frustrate foes up front.

"Our penalty killing was great all season," Roy said. "That's one thing we want to continue doing."

> Goaltending

There is no netminder in the NHL the Sabres would rather have than Miller. He's the backbone of the team, the face of the franchise and the league's top goalie. The scary part for opponents is he could get even better.

Miller sees plays happening before anyone else on the ice and puts himself in ideal position to stop the puck. He seems even more confident with a Vezina Trophy on his resume. He's favored to add another this year.

Patrick Lalime returns as Miller's backup, to the delight of his teammates and the chagrin of some fans. The 36-year-old has helped guide Miller from good to great, but his win-loss record stands out most. He is just 9-21-5 during his two-year Buffalo career.

Ruff insists he has faith in Lalime. It doesn't matter much anyway. The team will be carried by Miller from start to finish. They hope the finish isn't until June.

"Even the little taste the guys got last year, playoff hockey is the best time of year," Grier said. "It's probably the most fun you'll have playing hockey is in that environment and atmosphere, and without a doubt that's our goal. We want to win the division again. We want to finish at the top of the conference. We want to win the Stanley Cup."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com