NIAGARA FALLS — There’s no shake without the bake, and in the case of Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, head coach Lindy Ruff believes he needs to mix two ingredients together for the best results — meaning a pairing with off-again, on-again linemate Derek Roy.
Roy has stormed out of the gates this year, notching five goals and four assists in nine games for the Sabres.
And as Buffalo travels to Philadelphia tonight (7 p.m., Versus, 550 AM) for the first of three road games, Ruff is hoping Vanek’s two-goal outburst will kickstart the two-time 40-goal scorer.
“In this whole league, it’s groups of two that play well together. Whether it’s (Tim) Connolly-(Jason) Pominville, Pominville-(Jochen) Hecht, Roy-Vanek,” Ruff said Monday after practice. “Roy and Vanek have been together for long periods. When you take them away, it works for a little while. Sometimes, it spurs a little energy into your team. Usually, when you put them back together, that’s when you get your gift.
“It’s like, ‘OK, we get to play again together and let’s do the best with this.’ ”
Vanek failed to register a point in the first four games for Buffalo, which lost three of the four. He’s had at least one point in four of the team’s last five games, however, including a pair of goals in Saturday’s 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
“He could’ve easily started in good fashion in the Ottawa game. He had a couple of point blankers that didn’t go in,” Ruff said. “It was nice to see him get a couple. If Brodeur doesn’t make a great save, he’s got three in that game. I think that line is really starting to make things happen. It’s just capitalizing on a consistent basis. I like what they’ve done.”
For whatever the reason, for all the failure at home thus far, the Sabres have been great on the road, winning three of their four starts away from HSBC Arena.
Ruff isn’t sure why the team has been so good on foreign soil, or why his team is still winless in five home starts.
“For whatever reason, home has been tough on some teams,” Ruff said. “We’ve played a real smart hard game on the road. Probably last game we didn’t get off to the start we wanted, but we settled in, and played a real sound game. And we didn’t make the big mistakes we make at home, that have usually just come from trying to do too much or just trying to press.”
On the road in Philly, Buffalo will have to play another clean game, and shouldn’t expect special teams to decide the outcome. Prior to Monday’s game in Columbus, Philadelphia had one of the league’s power plays, clocking it just over nine percent. Their penalty kill, however, entered the game as the league’s fifth best.
“They’re a real dangerous team,” Ruff said. “We’ve got to make sure we play as smart as we did that past couple road games.”
Sabres at Flyers
• WHEN: 7 p.m.
• WHERE: Wells Fargo Center
• TV/RADIO: Versus, WGR-550