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Game 45 Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Buffalo Sabres 4/18/2021: lines, how to watch

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One more afternoon weekend Pens/Buffalo game today

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

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (28-13-3, 59 points, 2nd place in the Eastern Division) @ Buffalo Sabres (11-26-7, 29 points, 8th place in the Eastern Division)

When: 3:00 p.m. eastern

How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, MSG-B in New York, also available on ESPN+

Opponent Track: The Sabres fell yesterday, but they’re still 5-3-2 in the last 10 games and playing much better under interim coach Don Granato than they were earlier in the season.

Pens path ahead: After today it’s a five game home-stand for Pittsburgh. First up, it’s the Devils three times on Tuesday, Thursday and next Sunday (4/25) and then continues with the Bruins coming to the ‘Burgh after that.

Season Series: Pittsburgh is up 5-0 on Sabres this season, outscoring Buffalo by a combined 20-6 margin so far. The Pens won in Buffalo 5-2 on March 11th and then 3-0 on March 13th, followed by a 5-2 win on 3/24 and a 4-0 win on 3/25, with the Pens taking a 3-2 victory yesterday. After this weekend there are still two more PIT/BUF games left this season, and they’re also the very last two games of the regular season for the Pens on May 6+8, in Pittsburgh.

Recent History: The Pens have been good for a while, and the Sabres have not. Their matchups reflect that. Pittsburgh has points in 24 of its last 26 games against Buffalo (21-2-3) dating back to October 5, 2013. During that span, the Penguins have outscored the Sabres by a 98-50 margin. Pittsburgh is 13-0-2 against Buffalo in the last 15.

SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Die by the Blade for the latest news to know about the Sabres.

Player Stats at a Glance

via hockeydb:

—It won’t look like a pretty overall season at the end of the year, but players like Mittlestadt and Thompson are on the upswing in the past few games.

Possible Lines

FORWARDS

Jeff Skinner - Sam Reinhart - Victor Olofsson

Rasmus Asplund - Casey Mittlestadt - Tage Thompson

Anders Bjork - Dylan Cozens - Arttu Ruotsalainen

Tobias Rieder - Cody Eakin - Kyle Okposo

DEFENSEMEN

Jacob Bryson / Rasmus Ristolainen

Rasmus Dahlin / Henri Jokiharju

Matt Irwin / Colin Miller

Possible starting goalie: ?

Scratches: Riley Sheahan, Linus Ullmark (injured), Carter Hutton (injured)

IR: Jack Eichel, Zemgus Girgensons, Jake McCabe, William Borgen

—All eyes turn to Buffalo’s goalie situation. Do they go with Tokarski again? He was good against the Pens (yet he also suffered his third loss in three games against Pittsburgh this season). And he did have to face 41 shots, do you really want him playing two days in a row?

—Yet Buffalo may have no other choice, since the other options are an ECHL/AHL goalie in Michael Houser with no NHL experience and 22-year old prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who is injured and may/may not be able to even attempt to make his NHL debut today. A somewhat tired Tokarski doesn’t seem so bad by comparison.

And now for the Pens..

Yesterday’s game lines

Forwards

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust

Jared McCann - Jeff Carter - Jason Zucker

Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Evan Rodrigues

Radim Zohorna - Mark Jankowski - Colton Sceviour

Defense

Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang

Mike Matheson / Cody Ceci

Marcus Pettersson / John Marino

Possible starting goalie: Casey DeSmith

Scratches: Sam Lafferty, Chad Ruhwedel, Frederick Gaudreau (injured)

IR: Evgeni Malkin, Mark Friedman, Kasperi Kapanen, Brandon Tanev

Taxi Squad: Juuso Riikola, Yannick Weber, Emil Larmi, Anthony Angello, Maxime Lagace

—DeSmith has one of the coolest, obscure streaks going. He’s got 3 straight shutouts against Buffalo, including two this season. DeSmith has stopped 86 shots in a row over those three games. Can he....Well, you know..

Carter line shaping up

The new Jeff Carter line did really well yesterday. Jared McCann scored a goal and they were dominating territoriality.

It’s still way too early to declare McCann-Carter-Zucker a 2021 version of the HBK line, but the similarities of a line coming together late in the season, mainly due to an injury to an Evgeni Malkin injury is forming some parallels. If that comes to pass, at least for Malkin in 2021 Brandon Tanev and Kasperi Kapanen as leftover linemates would be better than a past prime Chris Kunitz and Eric Fehr, if it comes to that.