In the way way back, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 16, and it was a stinker for the first 40 minutes. A furious Penguins comeback, including a 20-3 shot advantage in the third period, wasn’t enough but launched the team on a four-game winning streak. They’ve won 10 of 13 games since.
The Penguins (15-8-5) will say hello, again, hello to Buffalo (10-15-4) at PPG Paints Arena on Friday night. Thank the NHL schedule makers for clearing your Saturday before Christmas. The Penguins have won five in a row.
Tristan Jarry will start for the Penguins. Jarry is 13-5-4 with a .934 save percentage and a league-best 1.92 GAA. The Penguins MVP is 8-1-1 in his last 10 starts, with a ridiculous 1.19 goals-against-average.
The Buffalo starting goalie is unknown. Coach Don Granato will turn to Malcolm Subban (0-1-0, .721, 7.60) or Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (2-2-1, 1.96, .939).
Buffalo has been competitive this season, though undermanned, outgunned, and just plain unlucky.
The Penguins are solidly in a wild-card spot. They lead the Detroit Red Wings by four points, and the Penguins have two games in hand. The Penguins lead the Boston Bruins by five points, but Boston has two games in hand.
Penguins center Brian Boyle won’t play Friday night due to a lower-body injury. Sam Lafferty appears to be the choice to slot onto the fourth line.
What to Watch:
You know what? I like to watch the Granato Sabres play. They’re a breath of fresh air from the Ralph Kreuger Sabres. They skate, play forward–not backward, and compete for all they’re worth.
They’re just not worth that much, especially with the goalie-by-peanut-vendor approach. Dustin Tokarski made 50 saves in the Buffalo win on Nov. 16. It may have been the finest game of his career.
The Penguins game against Buffalo will be about the Penguins forecheck and their ability to find intensity against a bottom feeder. If the Penguins get on their toes, this will be win No. 6 in a row. However, as they learned last month, if they sleepwalk through it, Buffalo doesn’t quit.
Shelly Anderson asked Mike Sullivan and others about that November Penguins game, with varying degrees of success.
Another thing to watch will be the Kasperi Kapanen. He has two goals in three games, BUT… he played one great game, one invisible game, and one mixed bag. Which Kapanen shows up?
And, will the Penguins defense continue their latest push to provide more offense? Mike Matheson seems to be finding a rhythm and jumping into the rush more often, with good results.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Danton Heinen||Evgeni Malkin||Evan Rodrigues|
|Dominik Simon||Jeff Carter||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Brian Boyle||Teddy Blueger||Brock McGinn|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Mike Matheson||Chad Ruhwedel|
Expected Buffalo Sabres Lines, per PuckPedia.com:
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
Penguins Special teams:
PP: 12-79, 15.2%, 29th NHL. PK: 5-68, 92.6, 1st NHL
Buffalo Special Teams:
PP: 14-73, 19.2%, 16th NHL. PK: 14-71, 80.3%, 17th NHL
*INJURIES: Position, Player, Status (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
F Evgeni Malkin, lower body (28 consecutive, 28 total)
F Bryan Rust, lower-body (9 consecutive, 16 total)
F Jake Guentzel, upper-body (3 consecutive, 4 total)
2021-22 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 89
*The Penguins have points in 26 of its last 30 games against Buffalo (23-4-3) dating back to Oct. 5, 2013
*Sidney Crosby is on a tear. He recorded multiple points in four of the last five games and has a team-leading nine points (2-7-9) in those five games. This season, Crosby has picked up two or more points in 31.3% of his games this season (5/16).
*The Penguins have allowed the fewest first-period goals (12) in the NHL.
*The Penguins have now allowed just six goals against over their last five games.
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T Sportsnet; Radio: 105.9 The X