Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (39-16-9, 87 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division) @ Buffalo Sabres (22-33-8, 52 points, 6th place Atlantic Division)
When: 7:30 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: A nationally televised broadcast on TNT
Opponent Track: It’s been a pretty strong little stretch for Buffalo lately, starting off with a big win in the emotional Jack Eichel return game on March 10th, they are 4-0-1 in their last five games. That includes two road extra time wins (1-0 OT in Calgary, 3-2 shootout in Vancouver) in their most recent action this weekend.
Pens Path Ahead: March remains relentless as the Pens will stay on the road against another Empire State team in the Rangers on Friday night for a third game in four days. Then they will return to PPG Paints Arena to meet the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.
Hidden Stat: This is ninth out of ten sets of back-to-back games for Pittsburgh this season. So far, the Pens are 11-3-3 overall in b-2-b’s (7-1-1 on the first game; 4-2-2 for the second contest).
Season Series: This will be the third and final PIT/BUF game, and the rubber match. The Sabres took the opening game between the two by a 2-1 score back on November 16th. The Penguins struck back in the second game, taking a 3-2 OT decision on December 17th.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Check out Die by the Blade where you can hopefully stay alive and learn a thing or two about the Sabres.
—Thompson is putting together a really nice year and may vie for the 30-goal, 60 point level. Since the calendar flipped to 2022, he has 26 points (13G+13A) in 27 games. Moving to center has really boosted his career.
—Kyle Okposo is signed for next season at a $6.0 million cap hit, so it’s not shocking he wasn’t traded this deadline, but if he keeps it up he could be a solid rental pickup at next year’s trade deadline as a veteran contributor that will add some size and physicality on a lower wing.
—Western NY native Alex Tuch has fit in really well after coming over in the Eichel trade and getting healthy. He looks like a nice piece to have around, and more encouraging is that prospect in the deal, Peyton Krebs, has gotten an NHL opportunity and made the most of it. Krebs has 13 points (6G+7A) in his last 26 games, averaging a little over 15 minutes per game. If he keeps growing into his game he should be a nice NHL player.
Tuesday Practice Lines
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch
Peyton Krebs - Dylan Cozens - Vinny Hinostroza
Rasmus Asplund - Casey Mittelstadt - Victor Olofsson
Zemgus Girgensons - Cody Eakin - Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin / Henri Jokiharju
Mattias Samuelsson / Jacob Bryson
Colin Miller / Mark Pysyk
Goalies: Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski
Scratches: Anders Bjork, Will Butcher, Casey Fitzgerald
IR: Johnny Boychuk, Malcolm Subban, Drake Caggiula
—In the month of March, Craig Anderson might only have a .904 save%, but he also has a 5-2-0 record this month. The 40-year old recently won his 300th career NHL game, a milestone he was really pushing for. Nice to see him get there in what could be his final NHL campaign.
Advanced stats matchup
The Penguins are one of the best teams in the league in just about everything, the Sabres are one of the worst teams in the league in just about everything. There’s your hard hitting #analysis.
It’s curious though, that Buffalo can finish pretty well and Pittsburgh can’t. If only the Penguins could have traded for the Sabres’ finishing ability and luck at the deadline!
And now for the Pens..
Last Night’s Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Evan Rodrigues
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Rickard Rakell - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brian Boyle - Teddy Blueger - Radim Zohorna
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Casey DeSmith (Tristan Jarry started last night)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Brock McGinn (week-to-week, upper body)
IR: Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Nathan Beaulieu
—Expect DeSmith to get a start tonight, naturally, in the back-to-back setting.
—What player is the next stretch of games the most important for? Kasperi Kapanen to get back on track? Evan Rodrigues to continue to find the scoresheet (he’s got 1G+3A in the last six games, including assists in the last two games)? Danton Heinen to show why he should keep a spot when everyone gets healthy? Rakell fitting in as the new guy? Zohorna with a real opportunity after some dead weight vets got traded out from ahead of him? This lineup, especially up front, is going to be what it is right now until Jason Zucker gets back from injury (which isn’t going to happen today or tomorrow), and there are a ton of storylines to follow right now as far as players looking to make the most of where they are, and also solidify a spot when Zucker and Brock McGinn eventually do return.
—Random observation but Arizona scored on Saturday when Clayton Keller snuck between Mike Matheson and John Marino. Last night, Columbus had a breakaway under almost identical circumstances. Keep thinking of that lazily bad and big gap Matheson and Letang had in Nashville on the Eeli Tolvanen breakaway goal. Something to watch for, I guess, but it looks like NHL teams are scouting on #5 with trying to exploit him with a player cheating up on offense and hitting him with a breakaway pass.
Milestone and streak watch
- Evgeni Malkin is three goals away from tying Jaromir Jagr (439) for third place on the Penguins’ all-time scoring leaderboard.
- Sidney Crosby (1,389) is now two points behind tying Brett Hull for 24th place in the NHL’s all-time scoring list.
- Evan Rodrigues is a point away from hitting the 40-point plateau in a season for the first time.
- Bryan Rust hit the 50-point plateau for the second time in his career last night. Rust’s next assist will be his 30th on the season and also set a personal single-season high in that department.