Who: Buffalo Sabres (15-33-7, 37 points, 8th place in the Eastern Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (36-16-3, 75 points, 1st place in the Eastern Division)
When: 3:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh and MSG-B in New York in the local markets, NBC for the final afternoon regular season time!
Opponent Track: This is the end of the line for the Sabres. No more games until October as they will miss the playoffs for a 10th straight time. Buffalo hasn’t won a playoff series since 2007 — the very beginning of the Crosby/Malkin playoff era. Enjoy and relish in the good times while they last, everyone.
Pens path ahead: The Penguins will have another game in the near future, but....No one quite knows when it will be. Likely sometime next weekend, but stay tuned.
Season Series: Pittsburgh is up 6-1-0 on Sabres this season. 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 on 4/17 but Buffalo bouncing back the next day on 4/18 with a 4-2 win for their first taste of victory over the Pens this year. Pittsburgh got back at Buffalo with the 8-4 mollywhomping on Thursday.
Recent History: The Pens have been good for a while, and the Sabres have not. Their matchups reflect that. Pittsburgh has points in 25 of its last 28 games against Buffalo (22-3-3) dating back to October 5, 2013. Pittsburgh is 14-1-2 against Buffalo in the last 17.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Die by the Blade for the latest news to know about the Sabres.
Friday practice Lines
Anders Bjork - Sam Reinhart - Victor Olofsson
Rasmus Asplund - Casey Mittlestadt - Tage Thompson
Jeff Skinner - Dylan Cozens - Arttu Ruotsalainen
Brett Murray - Riley Sheahan - Drake Caggiula
Rasmus Dahlin / Henri Jokiharju
Mattias Samuelsson / Rasmus Ristolainen
Jacob Bryson / Colin Miller
Possible starting goalie: Michael Houser
Scratches: Tobias Rieder, Kyle Okposo, Matt Irwin, Linus Ullmark (injured), Carter Hutton (injured), Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen (injured), William Borgen
IR: Jack Eichel, Zemgus Girgensons, Jake McCabe
Inexperience leads to mistakes
The Sabres jumped up 1-0 early on Thursday, but they seemed to let an early lead go to their heads and played too sloppy and wide-open a style with the Penguins. Mess with fire, and you’re going to get burned. Sometimes when you bring the thunder, you get lost in the storm, as a wise man once said. Those mistakes caught up with Buffalo in a big way, as they sort through the aftermath of last game and regroup one more time. From the Buffalo News:
“I thought we saw our youth and some inexperience because we thought we would be OK to be in a track meet,” said Granato. “I like our confidence and I like our thought that we could go score, but we didn’t know what we should respect enough, starting with puck management. We just didn’t respect the fact that we’re playing against a team that if we don’t take care of things the right way, the puck the right way, they can score and score quick.”
The Sabres did not win back-to-back games against the New York Islanders this week by making life difficult on goalie Michael Houser, the feel-good-story in a 10th consecutive non-playoff season for Buffalo. Though Granato has prioritized puck possession and creating offense, his corrections on the defensive end have have also cleaned up the errors that became common under former coach Ralph Krueger.
And now for the Pens..
Yesterday’s practice lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Jared McCann - Jeff Carter - Frederick Gaudreau
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Colton Sceviour
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Chad Ruhwedel / Cody Ceci
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Expected starting goalie: Maxime Lagace
Scratches: Radim Zohorna, Mark Friedman, Evan Rodrigues, Mark Jankowski, Sam Lafferty, Casey DeSmith (injured), Tristan Jarry (injured)
IR: Brandon Tanev, Mike Matheson
Taxi Squad: Juuso Riikola, Yannick Weber
—For the first time in almost two months the Penguins look like they’re going to dust the mothballs off of Chad Ruhwedel and give him a game to get in there for the last regular season game.
—All eyes will be in net, as Maxime Lagace appears in-line to get his first start with Pittsburgh. Lagace has sporadically been on the bench this season as a backup, and has gone back and forth from Wilkes-Barre to Pittsburgh’s taxi squad all season. As a result, he’s only played nine games in 2020-21 (all with Wilkes) and only one in the last month. That was a 4-3 OT loss to Hershey. It’ll be a matchup on fairly even footing, since Sabres goalie Michael Houser has only played three games all season, all of them coming in the last week.
Some milestones to get to...There aren’t really too many obtainable season metrics still out there. Here are a few:
- Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust: dressing today gives the two American first line wingers the only perfect attendance for the team on the season
- Guentzel needs three points for a 60 point season
- Jason Zucker, Zach Aston-Reese: both need one goal to break the double-digit mark for the season
- Evgeni Malkin: needs two goals to get to 10, two points to get to 30 on the season
- Malkin: needs one game winning goal to tie Mario Lemieux for first place in team history for career GWG (74)
- Sidney Crosby: one goal gets him to 25, would be his 12th career 25+ goal season
- Teddy Blueger: needs one point to set a new career-high (not bad for a shortened season!)
- Jeff Carter: two goals away from the career 400 mark
- Colton Sceviour: will hit 500 career games played by dressing today