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Game Preview, Buffalo Sabres @ Pittsburgh Penguins, 11/16/2021: Lines, how to watch

The Pens are back home and looking to bounce back

NHL: OCT 05 Preseason - Sabres at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who: Buffalo Sabres (6-6-4, 14 points, 6th place Atlantic division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (5-5-4, 14 points, 7th place Metropolitan division)

When: 7:00 p.m. eastern

How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet locally in Pittsburgh, MSG-B for the away broadcast, ESPN+

Opponent Track: The Sabres split a Friday/Saturday home back-to-back, defeating Edmonton 3-2 but then losing to Toronto 5-4 in their most recent game. Overall it’s been a bumpy November for Buffalo with just a 1-4-1 record this month after a fairly surprising 5-1-1 start out of the gates of the season.

Pens path ahead: It’s back on the road for the Pens after tonight, and back to Canada to play in Montreal on Thursday and Pittsburgh travels to Toronto for a Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. The Pens then stay north of the border for the yearly trip to Winnipeg next Monday, 11/22.

Season Series: The Pens and Sabres tangle three times this season. There’s tonight’s game, the Sabres will make the short trip to Pittsburgh on December 17th. The teams will clash one final time all the way on March 23rd, which will be the Pens’ lone trip to Buffalo this season.

Random fact: The Sabres are pretty even with a 6-6-2 record and they also have an even 43 goals for and 43 goals against on the year. But there is one large split: Buffalo is 5-2-1 at home this season and just 1-4-1 as an away team.

Random fact II: Per Pens PR department: Kasperi Kapanen has hit the post or crossbar with a shot three times this season. Only Toronto’s Auston Matthews (4) and Anaheim’s Adam Henrique (4) have had more such instances this year.

SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Die by the Blade for all the Sabres news you could hope for.

Stats

From hockeydb:

Who’s hot:

—After a pair of dreadful seasons, Jeff Skinner is possibly back. The sniper rode a hot shooting percentage to a 40-goal season and a fat contract in 2018-19 but was cold ever since. Last season he only scored seven goals in 53 games and was buried in the lineup and occasionally scratched. This young season Skinner has already almost matched last season’s goal output with five tallies, and in the month of November he has put up 4G+2A in six games to emerge as Buffalo’s best recent scoring threat.

—Tage Thompson is doing well too, with 3G+2A in the six November games. Some players do well against certain teams for whatever reason, and Thompson has inexplicably performed well against the Pens over the years. Thompson has 4G+1A in 10 career games against the Pens, which sounds modest enough, but that is .40 goals per game. Thompson has but 19 career goals in 149 NHL games against-non Pens opponents so far in his career for a .13 goals/game average.

Who’s not:

—Zemgus Girgensons has no points and is a team worst -5 in six games in November.

—Smooth skating Jacob Bryson has no goals and one assist in six November games after putting up 0G+4A in eight October contests.

—Craig Anderson, the oldest goalie in the NHL this season, is currently hurt which is tough— he has been great so far this season and was a huge part of Buffalo’s early hot start. The Buffalo backup goalies have floundered in Anderson’s absence, Dustin Tokarski has a 1-2-1 record with a 3.75 GAA and .889 save% in the month of November. Third string Aaron Dell was pressed into action last game against Toronto and gave up five goals in the loss with a .808 save% in his lone NHL game so far this season.

Monday Practice Lines

FORWARDS

Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Rasmus Asplund

Drake Caggiula - Dylan Cozens - Vinnie Hinostroza

Zemgus Girgensons - Cody Eakin - Kyle Okposo

Anders Bjork - Arttu Ruotsalainen - John Hayden

DEFENSEMEN

Rasmus Dahlin / Mark Pysyk

Jacob Bryson / Colin Miller

Robert Hagg / Will Butcher

Possible Starting Goalie: Dustin Tokarski

Scratches: Victor Olofsson (injured), Craig Anderson (injured) Christian Wolanin

IR: Alex Tuch, Casey Mittlestadt, Henri Jokiharju, Johnny Boychuk

—The inevitable Jack Eichel has gone through, and he didn’t fetch anything for am immediate boost to the team. Tuch had shoulder surgery over the summer and is likely out until about the Olympic break, making this season pretty much a lost one for him already. Peyton Krebs is a very good center prospect (in the way that Kris Beech was a good center prospect in 2001? Who knows), but was assigned to AHL Rochester for more seasoning.

—Buffalo also got a future 1st and 2nd round pick for Eichel from Vegas. Which all adds up to, well, a lot of uncertainty as a return for a point-per-game 25-year old franchise center, albeit one with a bum neck. It’s going to be another long rebuild in the seemingly endless rebuild, with the Sabres currently holding three picks in the first round in 2022 (their own, Vegas and Florida’s from the Sam Reinhart trade).

—It’s a bummer Mittlestadt is out now too. Still just 22 years old and already playing in parts of the last five NHL seasons, Mittlestadt was a bit of a slow developer but was starting to find a groove last season.

—Olofsson has missed the last six games and his return isn’t too far off but he isn’t expected to play tonight. He’s still tied for the team lead in goals and only one point back of the leading scorer, despite not playing in a while.

And now for the Pens..

Sunday Game Lines

Forwards

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust

Jason Zucker - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen

Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn

Danton Heinen - Brian Boyle - Evan Rodrigues

Defense

Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson / John Marino

Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel

Possible Starting Goalie: Tristan Jarry

Scratches: Sam Lafferty, Dominik Simon, Mark Friedman

IR: Evgeni Malkin (knee)

—The Pens were off the ice yesterday returning from their dreadful weekend road trip that saw them get out-scored 12-4 and give up six goals in each contest.

November leaders

Pens PR provides a look at the players leading the way for the Pens in the month of November:

Jake Guentzel has been one of the most consistent point producers for Pittsburgh this season, picking up points nine of the 13 games he’s played in (4G-6A). Since the calendar has flipped to November, Guentzel has points in five of Pittsburgh’s six games (3G-3A), and is tied with Evan Rodrigues for the team lead in scoring this month:

Player GP G A PTS

Jake Guentzel 6 3 3 6
Evan Rodrigues 6 3 3 6
Kasperi Kapanen 6 4 1 5
Kris Letang 6 1 4 5
Mike Matheson 6 0 4 4