12:30 p.m., First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York
The Penguins Last Game:
February 15, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Winnipeg 1 [Recap]
The Penguins are on a mini roll after a couple of big wins over team that they probably should have beat. I guess I say that because the Penguins have a notion of losing games to teams they should beat and every time you think they should probably get two points against a lesser team they manage to get zero points and put themselves behind the eight ball. Well things went pretty well last night even though the Penguins didn't even play. The Devils lost a game to the Islanders and the Flyers got worked by Montreal and anytime division teams lose on days off it is huge.
The Sabres might not be regarded as a top level team but they do have one of the most prolific scorers this season on their roster in Thomas Vanek who is leading the league in both points (24) and goals (11). The team really runs through Vanek as he is really a top notch player in the league but the Sabres also have some other pieces on the offensive end that can make things happen. Guys like Cody Hodgson, Jason Pominville, and Tyler Ennis might not come to your mind as some of the best in the game but they are more than capable of making things happen if you take them for granted.
Not sure how this game is going to turn out but there will be plenty of offense on the ice as four of the top-15 point scorers and the top two goal scorers in the league will be on the ice. Interesting that while Vanek is this top point getter in the league this year he only has an average ice time of 19:30 which is 48th best amongst league forwards. You have to imagine that Dan Byslma is going to do his best to get the Paul Martin/Brooks Orpik combination on the ice against the Vanek line.
In goal for the Sabres is Ryan Miller who is usually noted as one of the best in the game. This season he has been about average with a 2.82 goals against average and a .916 save percentage so this isn't like a Craig Anderson they are going against. In his last four games he has give up only eight games and has faced more than 30 shots in each game so he is perfectly capable of earning a win for Buffalo if the Penguins offense isn't up to task.
Marc Andre Fleury is getting the start in net again for the Penguins. He has been simply outstanding during the month to the tune of a 1.84 goals against average and a .930 save percentage while starting in six of the Penguins eight games. There was talk a little while ago about if the Penguins should turn to Tomas Vokoun to get the majority of the starts in the net but MAF has answered that nothing less than great performances and having the Penguins as a contender for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Robert Bortuzzo will also be back in the lineup as Simon Despres will be a healthy scratch. Bylsma said that this decision came down to Bortuzzo being the more physical of the defensemen and that is what he wanted in the lineup for the game in Buffalo.
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Robert Bortuzzo - Deryk Engelland
Marc Andre Fleury
Sabres (6-8-1) (via Daily Faceoff)
Thomas Vanek - Cody Hodgson - Jason Pominville
Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe - Mikhail Grigorenko - Steve Ott
John Scott - Jochen Hecht - Patrick Kaleta
Robyn Regehr - Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera - Christian Ehrhoff
Jordan Leopold - Mike Weber
The Last Time They Met:
March 30, 2012 - Pittsburgh 5, Buffalo 3