The Buffalo Sabres hope a subtle change to their power play will lead to noticeable results.
Sunday against Washington, the Sabres moved forward Linus Omark to the point during the man advantage. He was in the same position during practice Monday in First Niagara Center, working with Brayden McNabb on the second unit.
That’s a good indication Omark will find himself in the same role tonight when the Sabres host the Philadelphia Flyers in a nationally televised contest on NBC Sports Network.
“He did pretty well. He has a set of skills that very few have,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said of Omark. “We’ve just got to get him to do less skills and more finish, but he’s doing well.”
It’s because of that skill set that Nolan decided to move Omark back to the point. It’s a role the 26-year-old Swede has filled before.
“I’ve done it a lot. When I was in Edmonton I did it ... so I’m used to it,” said Omark, who spent parts of two seasons with the Oilers before joining the Sabres in a trade last month.
The Sabres scored their only goal in regulation Sunday against the Capitals with the man advantage, and although Omark wasn’t on the ice for that one, he did help create several other chances.
Any boost is welcome for the offensively-starved Sabres, who rank last in the NHL with only 71 goals - 27 fewer than any other team - and 28th on the power play with a success rate of 13 percent.
Moving Omark back ideally will give the Sabres more options, since he won’t be stapled to the blue line.
“I can play the half wall and the point at the same time. I have the responsibility defensively,” he said. “Maybe I can shoot it more. That’s one of my biggest strengths on the power play. We were pretty close yesterday, hopefully we can bury them.”
Center Cody Hodgson, who scored the game-deciding goal in the shootout Sunday, said he liked what Omark brought to the second power-play unit.
“He did awesome. I thought both units were really snapping the puck around and making sure we were crisp,” he said. “We scored the one on it, but I thought we could have had a few more, too. ... He brings a lot to the team with his skill and creativity. It’s great to see him making little saucer passes and things like that that he’s really good at.”
Omark’s creativity was also on display in the shootout Sunday. He went wide to the left and came in on Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer with a full head of steam. Omark attempted to flip the puck over Grubauer as the goalie slid to his left, but didn’t get enough air on the attempt.
The shot was reminiscent of a shootout goal that Omark scored while playing for the Swedish national team, a play that has been viewed on YouTube more than a million times.
Omark is now 0 for 2 in his Sabres’ career in shootouts, something he’s hungry to change soon.
“My first one I hit the post, I was pretty close,” he said. “Yesterday, I had him, but I missed the flip. I think it was two ‘ok’ attempts, but of course I want to score. Next time if I get the chance, I will bury it.”
Omark has one assist in eight games with the Sabres. He skated on a line in practice with Ville Leino and Brian Flynn on Monday.
Hodgson, meanwhile, was between John Scott and Matt D’Agostini at practice. The Sabres’ leading scorer (eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points) appeared not to miss a beat against Washington after missing eight games because of an upper-body injury.
“Mentally was the toughest part. The adjustment to the quick pace of the game, you can’t replicate that anywhere,” Hodgson said.
“You can feel good and in shape, but until you actually get into the games, you don’t realize how quick the game actually is.”
Hodgson worked with skating coach Dawn Braid during his absence, and credited his time with her and the team’s training staff for keeping him ready to play.
“The way they took care of the injury and what happened, they did a great job with that,” he said.