Fleury, Miller set for goalie duel
Tuesday, 12.29.2009 / 7:00 PM
PENGUINS (26-12-1) at SABRES (23-11-4)
: Pittsburgh 6-3-1; Buffalo 6-2-2
: Second of four meetings. The Penguins pulled out a 2-1 shootout victory at HSBC Arena on Dec. 19, with Kris Letang
netting the decisive goal. Jason Pominville
of the Sabres opened the scoring before Chris Kunitz
answered in the final minute of the first period. Marc-Andre Fleury
turned aside 31 shots and all three shootout attempts he faced.
: Pittsburgh figures to face a bigger challenge in securing two points this time around, as Ryan Miller
should get the start in goal for Buffalo. The Penguins faced backup Patrick Lalime in their last visit, and while he matched Fleury save-for-save through 65 minutes, few goalies in the League can compare to Miller the way he has played this season.
"He is a great, technical goalie," said Penguins defenseman Jay McKee, a former teammate of Miller's. “He can go through a handful of games where he doesn't have to make any spectacular saves because he is always in position.
"He is thinking ahead of the curve. He reads plays and angles well. He battles hard in practices and in games. He doesn't really have any weaknesses."
: This is the beginning of a four-game road trip for Pittsburgh, which dropped two of three on its recent homestand. The Penguins played catch-up the entire game Sunday against Toronto and finally ran out of comebacks after Leafs defenseman Ian White beat Fleury with 1:22 remaining. Mike Rupp had tied the score just 53 seconds earlier, but the Penguins fell 4-3.
"Skating-wise, I don't know how our legs feel; usually we don't feel great after a break, but it was the puck management and the execution that was not up to our standard," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
: Mike Grier and Tim Connolly had big third periods to rally Buffalo past St. Louis on Sunday. With the Sabres trailing 3-2 to start the third, Grier netted the tying goal. Connolly then scored on the power play and shorthanded for a 5-3 win. Grier set up the game-clinching shorthanded tally with 3:16 left. Each player finished with two goals and an assist.
"We didn't play well (Saturday) night," Grier said of a shootout loss against Ottawa. "I think we all kind of felt anxious coming into the game tonight and the guys battled. I think it took us a while to find our legs, but we battled and hung in there."
: Rupp's goal was his 10th in 39 games this season, four more than his previous career high. His 20.8 shooting percentage is tops on the Penguins. ... Connolly has three goals and two assists during a three-game points streak for the Sabres. Grier has two goals and three assists in his own three-game points streak.
: Pittsburgh defenseman Mark Eaton has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury. ... Buffalo forward Patrick Kaleta
is day-to-day after suffering a lower-body injury crashing into the net in St. Louis. Forward Derek Roy
could be ready to return from an upper-body injury by Friday. Forward Nathan Gerbe
is skating as he aims to return soon from a groin injury.
: Fleury improved to 6-0 this season in shootouts after the previous win over the Sabres. He has stopped 18 of 19 attempts against him in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.
: Fans could be in for quite the goaltending duel if Fleury and Miller oppose each other Tuesday. Fleury already has a Stanley Cup ring and is among the League leaders this season with 22 wins. Miller figures to start for the United States in the upcoming Olympics and ranks near the top this season in wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.