Either the Sabres are creeping up on the Pens or the Pens are creeping down on the Sabres.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres
Likely it’s a little of both since both teams are going in opposite directions. In the last eight games, Buffalo is 5-2-1. Compare that to a 3-5-0 mark in the Penguins’ last eight games.
Both are separated by two points and desperately need two more tonight to keep pace with the leaders in the Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh (17-11-4, 38 pts.) is coming off its most embarrassing loss of the season in a 7-3 loss at home to Toronto. They travel to Buffalo (16-13-4, 36 pts.), a team that has had the Pens number lately.
The two have played three times this season, with the Sabres having the edge on the season series, 2-1-0. The two wins came in the last two games, both by final scores of 4-3. Both were come-from-behind wins as well.
Buffalo has a trio of forwards that will cause problems for Pittsburgh, led by Thomas Vanek and his 24 goals. Vanek has another six assists, giving him 30 points. He is tied with Derek Roy (11 G – 19 A) for the team scoring lead.
Close behind Vanek and Roy is Jason Pominville with 26 points (9 G – 17 A).
Vanek has been the problem for the Pens, scoring three goals in three games this season. To hold him scoreless is a huge task, but it is one that is necessary for the Penguins to win tonight.
Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller has also played spectacular against Pittsburgh. His numbers on the season are very good (14-9-3, 2.56 GAA, .913 SV%).
It will be hard to get a win on the road but at the same time it’s a must. Marc-Andre Fleury will likely be in net and he needs a better start than he had on Saturday. A quality start on the road in a tough environment could do wonders for his confidence.
Everyone wants to see the Pens get the first goal and hold momentum. That, however, hasn’t ben the deciding factor in the season series between these two teams. The team trailing going in to the third has won each game.
Nevertheless, I’d like to see an early goal for Pittsburgh. Matt Cooke got the Pens on the board first in Atlanta and they never looked back.
I’ve beaten this point to a pulp lately, but tonight and tomorrow are must wins. The Pens have more talent than Buffalo, but they need to work harder. Talent alone doesn’t win games and the Penguins have experienced that lately.
Someone needs to step up and lead by example. Who will it be?
Forwards: Penguins. The Sabres have a big trio, but their numbers still don’t nearly match up to those of Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.
Defense: Even. Both teams give up nearly the same amount of goals and neither have legitimate scoring threats from the blue line.
Goaltending: Sabres. Ryan Miller has been consistent while both Fleury and Sabourin have struggled lately.
Special Teams: Sabres. The power plays are even but Buffalo’s ability to kill penalties give them the advantage.
The Penguins are going to work tonight. You could tell from the post-game interviews on Saturday that each players knew they weren’t working hard enough. From top to bottom the team was embarrassed and I expect a full turnaround tonight. Therefore, I’m going to say the Penguins will win by two goals, the second being an empty netter.
Chris | PPT