The Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Buffalo Sabres in a nationally televised game that will determine their chances to play for the NHL record tying winning streak. Buffalo will play in their second straight NBC Sports Network game after losing a 0-2 affair to the Boston Bruins on Easter Sunday. Pittsburgh will play on NBCSN on Wednesday night against the New York Rangers.
Pittsburgh and Buffalo are going in opposite directions heading toward the trading deadline. Pittsburgh has been rapidly adding pieces for a Cup run. GM Ray Shero has collected veterans Brendan Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jerome Iginla. Meanwhile Buffalo is shedding players in the midst of a rebuild. Darcy Regier has now traded T.J. Brennan, Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr already in the past several weeks.
Buffalo and Pittsburgh do share one dubious trend. They are losing their top players at a critical time. Pittsburgh has lost MVP candidate Sidney Crosby to a broken jaw and they are also short top defensemen Paul Martin and Kris Letang. Buffalo has lost leading scorer Thomas Vanek and the red hot Ville Leino to injury as well.
Buffalo has made two call ups to fill in the roster holes from the injuries and the trades. Adam Pardy is making his third trip back to Buffalo to take the 6th defenseman spot after the Regehr trade and the season ending injuries to Alex Sulzer and Brayden McNabb. Luke Adam gets his first call up of the season as well.
Pittsburgh may start their backup goaltender against the Sabres, because Thomas Vokoun has shutouts in back-to-back games. Buffalo faced a backup goaltender in Boston and they were shut out by Anton Khudobin. Ryan Miller will likely get the nod against the Penguins, but his numbers against Pittsburgh have not been stellar throughout his career.
On paper, the Penguins couldn’t have asked for a better team to extend their streak against, but don’t count the Sabres out just yet. The Penguins have a lot of adjustments to make due to all of the roster turnover. Also, sometimes seeing several teammates traded can shake a team out of a funk and it could be a surprising time for Buffalo to bust out against the favored Penguins.
Pittsburgh will be relying on some of their new acquisitions to contribute now that Crosby is out for some time. Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin and Jerome Iginla are not a half bad group of secondary scorers though. For Buffalo, the team will look for a balanced attack in the absence of some of their top shooters. Buffalo has gotten a lot of offense from their defense lately and they will look to continue that trend.
This is the second meeting between these teams this year. Pittsburgh won the first matchup on a Paul Martin goal that made the game 4-3. That game was also broadcast on NBCSN. The puck is set to drop at 7:30 PM EST.