Clearly, Philadelphia’s struggling performances don’t deter fans from watching.
Pittsburgh Penguins (24-10-1, 49 pts.) vs. Buffalo Sabres (21-10-2, 44 pts.)
At least not in Pittsburgh.
Thursday night’s game at the Wachovia Center was the second highest rated regular season broadcast in team history with a 10.95, just behind Mario Lemieux’s return from retirement on Dec. 27, 2000 (15.9). And while tonight’s game at Buffalo won’t have the same feel, it is just as important since Sabres have become one of the surprise teams this season.
Buffalo currently leads the Northeast Division with 44 points and could challenge for home-ice advantage come season’s end.
A pair of 10-goal scorers lead the offense in Thomas Vanek and Clarke MacArthur, but it’s Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller who has led the way. His 1.89 goals against average and .937 save percentage in 29 games played leads the league.
However, he won’t start tonight. The Sabres are in their second of back-to-back games and will start former Penguin Patrick Lalime in goal.
Lalime became a fan favorite in the 1996-97 season as a rookie by going 14-0-2 in his first 16 starts. He’s not setting any records this season — 3.51 GAA and .888 SV% — and sees little time in relief of Miller. Tonight will be Lalime’s fourth start.
“We do prepare for Ryan Miller,” said Dan Bylsma when asked how the Penguins prepare for goalkeepers. “We also prepare for the other guy as well. He’s a big part of their team, one of their best players. We’re going to prepare for seeing him.”
Bylsma needs to decide whether to change the lineup that swept a home-and-home series against the Flyers. Max Talbot sat out both games for Eric Godard, a move that helped boost the Penguins physicality.
Godard won’t be needed as much against Buffalo, and it appears the issue will be a game-time decision.
“I always consider changes to the lineup after every game,” Bylsma said. “Given the team we’re playing and what we need, we’re certainly thinking about it.”
Chris | PPT