The Pittsburgh Penguins (38-21-6) snapped their six-game losing streak on Tuesday night and will attempt to rebuild their momentum on Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres (29-29-8) at the Key Bank Center. The Penguins are in the midst of the Metro Division Battle, with five teams separated by only seven points.
The Penguins trail the Philadelphia Flyers by three points for second place and lead the Columbus Blue Jackets by three points for the first wild-card spot.
Buffalo beat the Penguins in each of their two previous meetings this season, including on opening night (3-1) and dealt the Penguins a significant loss on Feb. 22, 5-3. Jack Eichel and Conor Sheary each have two goals against the Penguins this season.
However, Sheary will wear the Penguins sweater on Thursday night after being acquired by GM Jim Rutherford and the Penguins at the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24. Sheary has two points (1g, 1a) in four games with the Penguins.
Matt Murray will start for the Penguins. Murray was in net on Tuesday night when the Penguins snapped their losing streak. He stopped 23 of 26 shots. Murray has two wins in his last five games.
Eichel has nine points (6g, 3a) in nine career games against the Penguins.
Sam Reinhart has 10 points (3g, 7a) in 10 career games vs. the Penguins.
Goalie Carter Hutton is 5-1 with a .940 save percentage and two shutouts in eight career appearances against the Penguins.
Evgeni Malkin has points (6g, 10a) in 11 straight games against Buffalo.
Patric Hornqvist has 11 points (5g, 6a) in his last eight games vs. Buffalo.
Penguins Sheary and Evan Rodrigues will face their former team for the first time this season. Dominik Kahun will face the Penguins for the first time as a member of the Sabres.
The Penguins activated John Marino and Brian Dumoulin off the IR on Tuesday. Both played Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators, and Marino scored the first goal of the game, 48 seconds into the first period.
Thursday night, Nick Bjugstad is a likely inclusion, but a game-time decision on Thursday night. Bjugstad has played just 10 games this season (0g, 1a).
Pittsburgh Penguins Injuries
Nick Bjugstad (GTD)
Zach Aston-Reese (Lower body, week to week)
Dominik Simon (Upper body, week to week)
Buffalo Sabres Injuries
Matt Hunwick (neck)
Vladimir Sobotka (knee)
Tage Thompson (shoulder)
Linus Ullmark (lower body)
The top lines will likely determine the fate of each team. Buffalo top-line center Eichel is on pace for 96 points and more than 40 goals this season. As Eichel goes, so goes Buffalo. Sam Reinhart has also lit up the Penguins in his career, too.
Should Sidney Crosby and the Penguins top line with Jason Zucker and Sheary shutdown Buffalo, then the Penguins will have a leg up for their second straight win.
The Penguins defense was vastly improved on Tuesday night with the returns of Marino and Dumoulin. The Penguins controlled puck possession and chances against Ottawa.
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jason Zucker||Sidney Crosby||Conor Sheary|
|Patrick Marleau||Evgeni Malkin||Bryan Rust|
|Evan Rodrigues||Jared McCann||Patric Hornqvist|
|Brandon Tanev||Teddy Blueger||Sam Lafferty|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|
Matt Murray will start in goal for the Penguins