As the Sabres wrapped up their morning skate Tuesday prior to a 3-1 victory in Montreal, a group of four players headed to the faceoff dot to work on draws with assistant coach Kevyn Adams. Among them was Jason Pominville, a right winger who is steadily gaining more time in the circle.
Pominville has stepped to the dot in place of linemate Luke Adam on several occasions this season, and the captain has also become the Sabres' leader in power-play faceoffs. That's why when practice ends, Pominville meets up with Buffalo's centers for extra work.
"[Paul Gaustad] is a good faceoff guy and Kevyn was a good faceoff guy when he played," Pominville said in Bell Centre. "He talks about it a lot, and we've taken a lot of pride as a team to be better."
Pominville entered Tuesday night's game with the fifth-most draws for the Sabres. He was eighth last year with 155 faceoffs, but he'd taken 23 after just four games. He's been effective, too. He went up against the Canadiens with 12 wins and 11 losses, including an 8-2 record when the Sabres have the man-advantage.
"He's taken an interest in them," said Gaustad, one of the league's top faceoff men. "He's worked on getting strong on one area of draws, and he's done a good job of it. It's repetition. It's knowing what the other team is going to do. Today we worked on what Montreal does and their traits.
"We want to be a puck-possession team, and it starts with faceoffs. It's not just centers. It's wingers pitching in, too, and helping out on draws."
Pominville, a right-handed shot, will take over for Adam, a lefty, when the faceoff is on the right side of the offensive zone. Pominville is better able to win the draw toward the boards for a Buffalo defenseman because he's on his strong side.
Pominville still trails the team's four centers in faceoffs taken -- Derek Roy, Ville Leino, Gaustad and Adam all entered Tuesday night with more than 40 draws each -- but he's eager to meet them in the circle nearly every time the Sabres skate.
"Those guys take a lot more draws than I would during a game and during a season," Pominville said. "I think it's important for me to practice because if you lose that rhythm and you go in there for a big draw in your zone or something like that, repetition makes you better."
I've noticed a significant improvement in him in his trips to the dot - this is obviously why.
A) awesome to see Goose mentoring
B ) he's being more proactive and aggressive in the dot (Poms, that is) - checking the opponents' blade before drawing the puck like he is supposed to do to be effective, watching the puck and cheating right before it leaves the official's hand.
Studying opposing tendencies is a HUGE practice in terms of correlation to success in the circles, so it's good to know the team is in on that practice and Poms is joining the party.
As he said, you never know when you'll get called on for a big draw. Even as a winger in a big spot, if your center gets tossed, you can't come in for him and be lost at sea.
This will come in handy if Leino ends up centering the top line at some point. He's been awful at faceoffs.
It's going to be an interesting situation. I think that Leino really needs to be on a good second line, but with the way Adam is playing, and Roy eventually getting back to 100%... it's a good problem to have, I just hope Ruff handles it the right way, whatever way that is.
Pommer is practically the defacto center for that line. Many times last night he was the one doing the work down low in our end defensively with Adam up on his wing for the breakout. He has also been cycling in on faceoffs.
When all of that is put with the fact that Adam gets little ES ice time or total ice. I can't imagine Adam remains that lines center for many more weeks. He is barely its center now.
I think thats a good thing since Adam needs to work on those aspects of his game to develop further as a player. Centering a lower line will allow him to work on them without the pressure of top line production.