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Life w/o Malkin, Gm33: Penguins Lines, Notes & What to Watch vs. BUF

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Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres

The Pittsburgh Penguins (19-11-2) will continue their life without centers Evgeni Malkin and Teddy Blueger on Wednesday night against the Buffalo Sables (6-20-4). Math and the law of averages may be against the Penguins this week but never bet against a streak as Buffalo has lost 14 in a row. The puck drops on Wednesday night after 8 p.m. because the national audience was clamoring for a Penguins game against Buffalo.

Yes, Buffalo is chasing the hallowed and prestigious 18-game losing streak, which the 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins led by Rico Fata, Dick Tarnstrom, Ramzi Abid, Aleksey Morozov, and Milan Kraft.

Did a cold shiver just race down your spine? Yeah, I covered that team every night, too (when did I get old?!)

The Penguins were 1-1-1 against New Jersey last week and now have a six-point lead over fifth-place Philadelphia. Even better news, Philadelphia only has one game in hand.

Tristan Jarry will start in goal for the Penguins, but generating offense will be the primary issue. The Penguins have scored just six goals in the last three games.

Since the Penguins game against Buffalo, rookie Rylan Cozens returned to the lineup after Zach Aston-Reese’s borderline hit caused him to miss time. The Sabres have lost 14 straight (0-12-2). Buffalo has been fed a bar of soap since Feb. 23, and Don Granato is the interim bench boss.

There is even percolating speculation that John Tortorella wants the job next year. 

On the Penguins injury front, Brandon Tanev will not play. Jason Zucker is skating with the skills coach. Mark Friedman is still skating with the team but isn’t expected to be available, either. Neither Malkin

Morning skates are still closed to media, so our “expected” lines continue, with some Buffalo help from our Daily Faceoff friends.  

Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams:
LWCRW
Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyBryan Rust
Jared McCannJeff CarterJason Zucker
Zach Aston-Reese Teddy BluegerEvan Rodrigues
Radim ZohornaMark JankowskiColton Sceviour
LDRD
Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Mike MathesonCody Ceci
Marcus PetterssonJohn Marino
LWCRW
Taylor HallDylan CozensSam Reinhart
Victor OlafssonEric StaalTage Thompson
Jeff SkinnerCurtis LazarCasey Mittelstadt
Rasmus AsplundCody EakinRiley Sheahan
Jacob BrysonRasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus DahlinColin Miller
Henri JokiharjuBrandon Montour
TEAMPower PlayPenalty Kill
Pittsburgh Penguins(28 for 122) 22.0% 10th NHL(96 for 125) 76.8% 24th NHL
Philadelphia Flyers(26 for 132) 19.7% T-19th NHL(93 for 127) 73.2% 30th NHL
What to Watch:

We’ll be watching to see tweaks or changes Don Granato has made to Buffalo. But let’s be more realistic. The Buffalo Sabres will have to compete much harder to start winning.

The Penguins will have to compete harder in about 20 square feet, the 10 square around their net and the 10 square around the opponent’s net. The Penguins aren’t going to bury a lot of chances off the rush. As much as coaches want to say they can’t change the game plan without the centers dishing the puck, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan will have to tinker.

He may also tinker with the lines, as he said Wednesday morning.

“There’s always that fine line between spreading your offensive guys too thin,” Sullivan said of possibly breaking up Guentzel-Crosby-Rust. “We’ll make those decisions accordingly. We’ve got some ideas in mind on how we can tweak the lines … but nothing at this point is off the table.”

Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes

Position, Player (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)

F Jason Zucker (15 consecutive, 15 total)
D Mark Friedman (10 consecutive, 10 total)
F Teddy Blueger (4 consecutive, 4 total)
F Evgeni Malkin (3 consecutive, 3 total)
F Brandon Tanev (2 consecutive, 2 total)

2020-21 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 170

*The Penguins have points in 21 of their last 23 games against Buffalo (18-2-3) dating back to Oct. 5, 2013. During that span, the Penguins have outscored the Sabres by a 86-44 margin.

*The Penguins have earned points in 13 of their last 18 games (12-5-1).

*The Penguins begin their fifth of nine sets of back-to-back games. The Penguins are 5-2-1 in back-to-backs (4-0-0 the first night; 1-2-1 the second night).

BUFFALO Injuries:

Player (injury, first game missed) – total games missed

Zemgus Girgensons (hamstring, Jan. 14; injured reserve) – 30 games
William Borgen (forearm, Feb. 22; injured reserve) – 16 games
Jake McCabe (knee, Feb. 22; injured reserve) – 16 games
Linus Ullmark (lower body, Feb. 27; injured reserve) – 13 games
Jack Eichel (upper body, March 9; injured reserve) – 7 games
Kyle Okposo (upper body, March 22) – 1 game
Carter Hutton (lower body) – 0 games
Colin Miller (upper body) – 0 games
Tobias Rieder (upper body) – 0 game

*Taylor Hall has recorded 23 points (9g, 14a) in 20 career meetings with Pittsburgh, including four multi-point outings

How to Watch:

TV: NBCSN

Radio: 105.9 The X

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