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Game 66 Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Buffalo Sabres 3/5/2020: lines, how to watch

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The Pens look to avoid the season sweep at the hands of the Sabres

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (38-21-6, 82 points, 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division) @ Buffalo Sabres (29-29-8, 66 points, 6th place Atlantic Division)

When: 7:00 p.m. eastern.

How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, MSG-B for the New Yorkers

Opponent Track: The Sabres lost their last time out 3-1 in Winnipeg on Tuesday night, marking their fourth straight loss.

Pens path ahead: After tonight, it’s all Metro division all the time for the Pens who will deal with 10 straight Metropolitan Division starting this weekend at home. Pittsburgh hosts Washington on Saturday afternoon and meets Carolina for the first time all season on Sunday.

Season Series: The Pens need to win this game to avoid the season sweep to BUF. The Sabres won 5-2 in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago on February 22nd (game two of the six game losing streak) and Buffalo beat the Pens 3-1 all the way back on opening night, October 3rd, 2019.

Recent history: Traditionally the Pens have had the number of the typically struggling Sabres. Pittsburgh is 15-2-3 in the last 20 against Buffalo, dating back to the start of the 2013-14 season.

SBN Team Counterpart: Our friends at Die by the Blade will have you covered from the Buffalo perspective

Tale of the tape

—Have to give it up to Buffalo, it’s tough to be worse than Detroit this year in just about anything and somehow the Sabres’ penalty kill has done it. They’re only 68.8% on the PK in their last 17 games since the All-Star break, just absolutely dreadful stuff.

—If you have to say something nice about Buffalo (without using the words “Jack Eichel”) it would be that they don’t give up a lot of shots and their goalies really do give them a fighting chance at 5v5. But, unfortunately for them, most of that strong 5v5 number is coming from the injured Linus Ullmark (.926% ES save%) who won’t be playing. Carter Hutton at .914% is stopping less pucks.

—Great offensive night on Tuesday pops the Pens’ goals/game and shooting percentage up a few positions. Pretty impressive this deep into the season with a large sample.

Player Stats at a Glance

via hockeydb:

Eichel can’t do much more than he has been doing, but five years in his career hasn’t really advanced due to a lack of supporting cast. Reinhart has emerged as a solid producer, and the rookie Olofsson has had an exciting start. Rasmus Dahlin is a wonderful teenaged defenseman. Other than that, it hasn’t been great this year. Just not enough.

Possible Lines (based on Tuesday game)

Forwards

Victor Olofsson - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Jeff Skinner - Curtis Lazar - Wayne Simmonds

Jimmy Vesey - Marcus Johansson - Dominik Kahun

Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Kyle Okposo

Defense

Lawrence Pilut / Rasmus Ristolainen

Rasmus Dahlin / Brandon Montour

Jake McCabe / Henrik Jokiharju

Expected starting goalie:

Expected Scratches: Colin Miller, Michael Frolik

Injured Reserve: Linus Ullmark, Matt Hunwick, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson

—Old friend Dominik Kahun scored a goal on his very first shift in Buffalo. In the three games since he’s tacked on one assist as well.

Buffalo disappointed after four game losing road trip

Any faint, probably ill-fated hope about making the playoffs for the Sabres got totally flushed away with the four game road trip that just concluded. All regulation losses.

As expected, they’re not a satisfied bunch with this turn of events. From sabres.com

“We’re not happy with that,” Krueger said. “We’re going home grumpy and upset but we also played some really good periods. We are a group in growth. We are a group with some amazing fightback. These guys just don’t quit, which I’m pleased about.

”How we keep it positive is with a lot of communication and right back to work tomorrow. Let’s think about the things we can do, we can improve, and we need to react at home in front of our home crowd against Pittsburgh on Thursday.”

Each game on the road trip had moments where it was up for grabs. The Sabres were tied entering the third periods of the first two games in Colorado and Las Vegas. They saw a 2-0 lead slip in Arizona.

Though they never actually led in Winnipeg, the chances were there. The Sabres earned two power plays in the first period but were unsuccessful on both.

And now for the Pens..

Infographic

Potential Lines (based on Wednesday practice)

Forwards:

Jason Zucker - Sidney Crosby - Conor Sheary

Patrick Marleau - Evgeni Malkin -Bryan Rust

Jared McCann - Nick Bjugstad - Patric Hornqvist

Brandon Tanev - Teddy Blueger - Evan Rodrigues

Defense:

Brian Dumoulin/ Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson / John Marino

Jack Johnson / Justin Schultz

Possible starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

Expected scratches: Zach Aston-Reese (lower body injury), Juuso Riikola (healthy), Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Dominik Simon (injured), Anthony Angello (injured), Sam Lafferty (healthy)

Injured Reserve: Jake Guentzel (shoulder)

—The injury shuffle continues. It’s Angello who goes down last game with a “week-to-week” injury. Bjugstad is officially listed as a “game time decision” for tonight, which typically means a return is imminent.

Brandon Tanev was ill and missed Tuesday’s game but was said to be feeling better on Wednesday (though he was held out of practice). Still, he traveled with the team up to Buffalo, so let’s assume he’s back in.

Horned up

The feisty Patric Hornqvist is one to feast on Buffalo. Per Pens’ PR:

Patric Hornqvist has points in seven of his last eight games against the Sabres (5G-6A), which includes three multi-point efforts. His 1.05 points-per-game average (22 points in 21 games) against Buffalo is his highest versus any one team.

Sid and the GOATs, or just Sid the GOAT?

Also per Pens PR, Sidney Crosby is really in the presence of greatness here when it comes to career performance against the Sabres:

Captain Sidney Crosby enters tomorrow night’s game with points in seven of his last eight games (5G-7A) versus Buffalo. He has recorded at least one point in 36 of 41 career games played against them, while his 62 points (20G-42A) are the second-most he’s tallied against any non-Metropolitan Division opponent (Toronto, 63 points).

Crosby enters tomorrow night’s game as one of six players in NHL history to average over 1.50 points per game in their careers versus the Sabres (min. 15 GP):

Player GP PTS PTS/GM

Mario Lemieux 40 70 1.75

Steve Yzerman 41 67 1.63

Pavel Bure 22 35 1.59

Bobby Orr 29 44 1.52

Sidney Crosby 41 62 1.51

Wayne Gretzky 55 83 1.51

Yeah, that’s a pretty good list of names.