7:30 p.m., First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York
Another pretty brutal loss last night to the Islanders put the Penguins pretty much out of the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference but that doesn't mean that there isn't a ton yet to play for in the last five games of the season. The Penguins only have a two point edge on the Flyers as they only have five games to play and if it came down to a tie breaker the Flyers would win out based on more wins in regulation and overtime.
The Sabres are one of the hottest teams in the league right now and it all started with the 6-2 drubbing the Sabres put on the Penguins back in February. Since that time Buffalo has gone 14-2-3 and are tied for the eighth spot in the conference with the Washington Capitals. They are backed by Ryan Miller who has really turned around his game after playing some pretty bad hockey for much of the season. In Miller's last five contests he has only allowed six goals and posted a .962 save percentage. For a Penguins team that has really been shut down by the Islanders goals might be at a premium. In two games this year against the Penguins Miller has allowed seven goals and in 19 career games against the Penguins he has let up 53 goals (40 even strength) and has a pedestrian .881 save percentage.
No idea what the deal is going to be with the Penguins tonight. Brent Johnson should get the start in the net and they looked really sloppy last night. Lines were being changed up a good bit and the team looked to try way too hard to play defensive hockey and they never really got a good offensive flow going. Granted this has only been two games so I am not too concerned.
It will be interesting to watch how both teams come out in this game. The Sabres are playing for everything right now. While they have played unreal hockey they are still nowhere near close to getting into the playoffs as they are only in now because they have a game in hand on the Capitals with the same amount of points. The Penguins are already in the playoffs and while they need to keep winning to maintain home ice advantage they are more concerned with getting everything right for the playoff run. The Sabres are going to be the much more desperate team and the Penguins have looked out of sorts and even somewhat disinterested in the last couple of games against the Islanders.
The season series (Buffalo leads 2-1):
October 15, 2011 - Buffalo 3, Pittsburgh 2
December 17, 2011 - Pittsburgh 8, Buffalo 3
February 19, 2012 - Buffalo 6, Pittsburgh 2
The Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams - Arron Asham
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Paul Martin
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland
The Sabres probables (via Empty Netters):
Ville Leino - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Corey Tropp - Cody Hodgson - Thomas Vanek
Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Cody McCormick - Brad Boyes - Patrick Kaleta
Jordan Leopold - Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr - Andrej Sekera
Mike Weber - Alexander Sulzer