What to Watch For: Pens vs. Sabres
Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 10:00 AM ET / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
PENGUINS (17-11-4) vs. SABRES (16-12-3)
WHEN: Dec. 17, 2011 - 7:00 pm | WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH: ROOT SPORTS | LISTEN: Penguins 24/7 Radio, 105.9 FM
Tonight is also the second of back-to-back games for the Buffalo Sabres, as they topped Toronto, 5-4, on Friday. Their visit to Pittsburgh is the first of a tough stretch where they’ll play five of six games on the road.
Their victory on Friday was a much-needed one, as the Sabres had entered the game on a bit of a slide where mental errors and a lack of execution had them at 3-5-3 in their last 11 games. Buffalo got a coveted two points over their division rival, which were of the utmost importance with the tightness of the Eastern Conference.
The Sabres scored four second-period goals, went 3-for-6 on the power play and Thomas Vanek celebrated his 500th NHL game by notching two goals and posting the fourth four-point night of his career, his first since April 10, 2010.
And apart from Vanek, players that needed to step up did exactly that – especially the Sabres’ second line of Tyler Ennis, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. Entering the game, the trio had been struggling – with Roy scoring just one goal in his last 16 contests, Stafford one in seventeen and Ennis had two all season. But when the final buzzer sounded Friday, Ennis came out with a goal and an assist, Stafford a goal and Roy an assist.
Granted, injuries to key players certainly has not helped the Sabres. They’ve been without towering defenseman Tyler Myers for nearly four weeks as he recovers from wrist surgery. Buffalo was also missing six forwards for Friday’s game in Ville Leino, Nathan Gerbe, Brad Boyes, Jochen Hecht, Patrick Kaleta and Corey Tropp.
The Penguins may see backup Jhonas Enroth for the second time this season, as Ryan Miller got the nod on Friday against the Leafs. Enroth, who got the win against Pittsburgh the last time these two teams met, has appeared in 17 games this season, going 8-6-1 in that span with one shutout. The 23-year-old leads NHL rookie goalies in wins.
Meanwhile, tonight Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury can become just the second goaltender in franchise history to reach 200 wins (Tom Barrasso, 226). If Fleury (27 years, 19 days) wins tonight, he will become the fourth-youngest netminder in the Expansion Era (since 1967-68) to reach 200 victories. Fleury would trail only Grant Fuhr (26 years, 122 days), Martin Brodeur (26 years, 343 days) and Barrasso (26 years, 354 days).
SABRES: Captain Jason Pominville continues to be the Sabres’ most consistent producer, as he leads the Sabres with 34 points (10G-24A) and extended his point streak to five games on Friday with a pair of helpers, notching a goal and five assists over that span. He’s got at least a point in 24 of Buffalo’s 31 games, only having gone two straight contests without a point one time. In December, Pominville has eight points (1G-7A) in seven games and in 23 career games against the Penguins, the winger’s got eight goals and six assists.
PENGUINS: Forward Steve Sullivan is coming off his best game in a Penguins uniform after collecting his first three-point game of the season (1G-2A) Friday against Ottawa. That gives Sullivan a pair of multiple-point efforts over his last three games. Since starting off the season with zero goals and three assists in 13 October games, Sullivan has accumulated 14 points (6G-8A) in 19 games since Nov. 3.
Penguins center Jordan Staal did not play Friday in Ottawa with a lower-body injury. Staal also sat out Dec. 10 vs. NY Islanders, but played in the Penguins' game vs. Detroit on Dec. 13. His status for tonight is uncertain. In his stead, forward Eric Tangradi, recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Friday morning, played against the Senators.
In addition, defenseman Paul Martin left Friday's game early in the third period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Head coach Dan Bylsma said he will be re-evaluated in Pittsburgh.
C Sidney Crosby, undisclosed
F Dustin Jeffrey, knee
D Kris Letang, broken nose and concussion
D Ben Lovejoy, broken wrist
D Paul Martin, lower body
D Zbynek Michalek, concussion
F Richard Park, fractured foot
F Jordan Staal, lower body
D Brian Strait, hyper-extended elbow
D Tyler Myers, broken wrist
F Brad Boyes, lower body
F Patrick Kaleta, lower body
F Nathan Gerbe, upper body
F Jochen Hecht, lower body
F Corey Tropp, upper body
F Ville Leino, lower body