Who: Buffalo Sabres (7-6-1, 13 points, 5th place Atlantic Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (6-6-0, 12 points, 6th place Metropolitan Division)
How to Watch: SportsNet Pittsburgh for the home team, MSG-Buffalo for the visitors, streaming on ESPN+
Pens’ Path Ahead: It’s a Metropolitan Division week ahead for the Penguins, who are back on the road for a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday before returning to PPG Paints for a clash with the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
Opponent Track: For the second game in a row, the Penguins are playing an opponent on the second night of a back-to-back set. The Sabres played the Minnesota Wild at home last night and won 3-2. After starting the season 2-4, the Sabres are now 5-2-1 in their last eight games.
Season Series: It won’t be long until the Pens see these Sabres again. They’re set for a Black Friday battle in Buffalo on November 24.
Last Year: The Pens split the season series in what were (basically) two one goal games. The Sabres won 6-3 (with two empty netters) in Buffalo in November before the Penguins triumphed 4-3 in overtime thanks to a Jeff Carter power-play goal in December.
Hidden Stat: Crosby loves playing the Sabres. His 80 points (27-53—80) in 56 career games against Buffalo are the most he’s produced against any opponent outside the division, according to Pens PR.
Getting to know the Sabres
Projected Game Lines
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Dylan Cozens / Alex Tuch
Jordan Greenway - Casey Mittelstadt - John-Jason Peterka
Matt Savoie - Peyton Krebs - Lukas Rousek
Zemgus Girgensons - Tyson Jost - Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin / Ryan Johnson
Owen Power / Henri Jokiharju
Connor Clifton / Erik Johnson
Goalies: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Devon Levi
Possible scratches: Victor Olofsson, Jacob Bryson, potentially Rousek to make space for Tuch
IR: Brandon Biro, Zach Benson, Jack Quinn, Mattias Samuelsson, Eric Comrie
- Matt Savoie, the No. 9 pick of the 2022 draft, made his NHL debut Friday. After recording 95 points (38 goals, 57 assists) in 62 WHL games last season, he’s auditioning for a permanent spot in the NHL— if not, he’ll have to return to the WHL (the 19-year-old is one day shy of the AHL age minimum) so motivation to score tonight is high. If he plays, he’ll likely be most noticeable for his speed.
- Alex Tuch, who was day-to-day with “soreness” during Sabres practices this week, missed the Sabres’ Friday game but is set to play tonight against the Pens, per Sabres.com’s Jourdan LaBarber. He had three goals in the Sabres’ two games prior to his injury and is generally a big part of Buffalo’s best games. From The Athletic’s Matthew Fairburn:
There’s no denying how much Buffalo feeds off of Tuch... The Sabres were 20-8 in games in which Tuch scored last season. They were 2-0 to start the season in games Tuch scored in before Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss.
Not clear yet which winger will get bumped out when Tuch returns, but a good bet is recent call-up Lukas Rousek. In general, take these projected lines with a grain of salt. There’s been a fair bit of shuffling in Buffalo between injuries and testing out different combinations, such as moving Dylan Cozens from center to wing, so things could look different if Tuch is ready to go tonight.
- Cozens, who had missed two games while practicing in a no-contact jersey and full face shield after a fight with the Philadelphia Flyers’ Garnet Hathaway gone wrong, returned to the lineup Friday.
- Victor Olofsson was benched Friday after a slow season start that saw him record one point in eight games.
- Ryan Johnson made his NHL debut Monday and is so far performing well on the Sabres’ first pairing.
(via hockeydb, does not include last night’s game)
- Jeff Skinner and J.J. Peterka each recorded a goal and an assist in the Sabres’ Friday night win over the Wild. Skinner now leads the Sabres with seven goals.
When Devon Levi suffered a lower-body injury in October, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen took over in net. Levi is back, but we can expect to see more of Luukkonen going forward.
You won't see UPL or Devon Levi get the bulk of starts in goal for the Sabres, at least right now.— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) November 6, 2023
Don Granato told us both are playing well, so they'll rotate UPL and Levi moving forward.
Levi started last night and made 31 saves against the Wild, so the Pens can expect to take on Luukkonen tonight.
After two stellar performances— a shutout of the Colorado Avalanche and a 38-save win over the Flyers in Philadelphia— Luukonen is looking to bounce back after two rough losses in his last two stops. The 24-year-old allowed five goals on 19 shots in a home loss to the Flyers last Friday and lost in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
And now for the Pens...
Infographic courtesy of Pens PR
Projected Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Drew O’Connor - Lars Eller - Radim Zohorna
Matt Nieto - Noel Acciari - Jeff Carter
Ryan Graves / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Karlsson
Ryan Shea / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Magnus Hellberg and Tristan Jarry
Expected scratches: P.O. Joseph
IR: Alex Nedeljkovic, John Ludvig (concussion)
Season opening IR: Raivis Ansons, Will Butcher
- Keep an eye out today for an update on Tristan Jarry’s availability today. Mike Sullivan classified him as “day-to-day” on Thursday due to his swollen eye.
- Streak watch: Sidney Crosby has points in seven straight games (4-5—9). Only five players in the NHL are currently on longer streaks, per Pens PR.
- Milestone watch: Kris Letang is two points away from 700. He would be the third active defenseman to reach the plateau.
PPG Paints hasn’t been friendly to the Penguins so far this season. Their overall record at home is 2-4, including a 1-3 mark when the Pens score first.
That’s a small sample size, but their home record so far this season leaves the Pens in ignoble company. The only teams with worse records on home ice are the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and nosediving Edmonton Oilers.
The Pens will have to hope their success on a historically difficult California road trip, as well as the potential return of Jarry, can help them climb those standings.