The Pittsburgh Penguins (16-9-1) with Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen are red hot. The Penguins will need a win for four points in the two-game series against the Buffalo Sabres (6-15-4), and the Penguins will probably need a fourth goal for a comfortable win. The Penguins beat Buffalo 5-2 on Thursday, but it wasn’t safe until lucky No. 4 in the third period.
The Penguins were not sharp on Thursday but good enough to beat the struggling Sabres. Get the full PHN report card and breakdown.
Malkin and Kapanen have combined for seven goals in the last six games.
Buffalo may be further shorthanded on Saturday. In addition to playing without captain Jack Eichel, the Sabres may be without talented rookie Dylan Cozens who stepped in for Eichel. Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese level Cozens with a dangerous at center ice. Cozens slammed hard into the wall, left the game, and did not practice on Friday per Buffalo beat writer Lance Lysowski.
The Sabres have the fewest points in the NHL.
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The Penguins are tenuously in third place in the East Division. They lead the Boston Bruins by one point and the Philadelphia Flyers by four points, but both teams have two games in hand on the Penguins.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan updated Jared McCann’s status on Friday. McCann did not make the trip and is rehabbing in Pittsburgh. While initially saying McCann was day-to-day, the Penguins put McCann on IR retroactive to March 7.
After a curious goaltending decision on Thursday, the Buffalo Sabres will turn to Carter Hutton in the net. Hutton is 5-1-0 in his career against the Penguins.
The Penguins will go with Casey DeSmith. DeSmith is 5-2-0, with a 2.52 GAA and a .901 save percentage. The Penguins have a pair of back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday against the Boston Bruins.
Sullivan said defenseman John Marino, like all players, is a game-time decision.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Freddy Gaudreau|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Anders Bjork||Sam Reinhart||Victor Olafsson|
|Rasmus Asplund||Casey Mittelstadt||Tage Thompson|
|Arttu Ruotsalainen||Riley Sheahan||Dylan Cozens|
|Jeff SKinner||Cody Eakin||Drake Caggiula|
|Rasmus Dahlin||Henri Jokiharju|
|Mattias Samuelsson||Rasmus Ristolainen|
|Jacob Bryson||Colin Miller|
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||23.7%, 4th NHL||77.4%, 27th NHL|
|New York Islanders||18.8%, 21st NHL||83.7%, 6th NHL|
What to Watch:
We’ll make this short and sweet. There are a few questions the Penguins must answer, again. Can they generate energy and intensity against a nap-inducing opponent? Will they revert to the tight puck support which launched them against Philadelphia and New York, or resume the spread-out sloppiness they employed on Thursday?
Will Buffalo ever wake up?
The Penguins breakouts were not a thing of beauty on Thursday. Consequently, their offense didn’t generate sustained or heavy pressure. Ironically, some of the Penguins’ best shifts came from the fourth line and in the third period.
“I’ve always been a believer that when you when your mindset changes and you try to sit on a lead. It’s not a positive thing for a team. And that’s one of the things we talked about in between periods,” Mike Sullivan said Thursday night. “We’ve got to continue to play on our toes. We’re going to continue to try to score the next goal. We just have to do it the right way.”
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
*Buffalo is 2-13-2 when the opponent scores first.
*Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton is 5-1-0 with a .940 save percentage in eight career appearances against the Penguins.
*The Pittsburgh Penguins are 4-1 when tied after the first period, 6-1 when tied after the second.
*The Penguins have points in 20 of its last 22 games against Buffalo (17-2-3) dating back to October 5, 2013, and an active 13-game point streak versus the Sabres in Buffalo (11-0-2
*Evgeni Malkin has points in 13 consecutive games against Buffalo (7g, 13a).
*Malkin is also on a six-game point streak.
*Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen are red hot. Over the past six games, the two combined for 17 points (7g, 10a). The seven goals are 26.9% of the Penguins’ 26 goals in the span.
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL Network
Radio: 105.9 The X