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Banged-up Sabres visit injury-plagued Penguins

by John Kreiser

SABRES (16-12-3) AT PENGUINS (17-11-4)

TV: MSG-Buffalo (HD); ROOT (HD)

LAST 10: Buffalo 4-4-2; Pittsburgh 5-5-0

Season Series: The Sabres are making their second visit of the season to the Consol Energy Center, where they won 3-2 on Oct. 15. The Penguins don't make their first of two visits to Buffalo until late February.

Big Story: Both teams are playing the second half of back-to-backs, but the Sabres come to town off a 5-4 home victory against Toronto, while the Penguins are home following a wild 6-4 loss in Ottawa.

Team Scope:

Sabres: The power play and top scorer Thomas Vanek both came alive as the Sabres held off Toronto despite surrendering a pair of third-period goals. The power play connected three times in the second period; Vanek had one of those goals and added another tally in the third to go along with a pair of assists.

"It was a good effort by everybody. The building was rocking, the energy was great. We kind of fed off that. It was a fun game to be a part of, and a fun game to play in," said captain Jason Pominville, who had two assists. "Overall our battles were much better, our special teams did a good job and we won the game. We need to keep on rolling."

Penguins: Run-and-gun is not coach Dan Bylsma's preferred style of play, especially with a lengthy injury list led by Sidney Crosby. But it's what the Penguins wound up doing Friday night in Ottawa, and they paid the price in a 6-4 loss that saw them surrender five goals in the second period while losing for the fourth time in five games.

"We don't like it that open," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "Sometimes pucks are going to bounce into your net funny, that happens. But we kind of got away from our game a little bit. We started cheating and looking for offense just a little bit, and that's when bad things can happen."

Who's Hot: Vanek has four goals in his last five games. … Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin has seven points during a four-game scoring streak.

Injury Report: Talk about a battle of the injury-depleted. The Sabres were without a half-dozen regulars on Friday, including forwards Ville Leino and Jochen Hecht (lower body). Forwards Brad Boyes (knee and Nathan Gerbe (concussion) and defenseman Tyler Myers (wrist) are on injured reserve.

… In addition to Crosby, defenseman Kris Letang is also out with a concussion. Center Jordan Staal (lower body) sat out Friday, and defenseman Paul Martin left early in the third after absorbing a hit from Ottawa's Chris Phillips and did not return. Bylsma said Martin has a lower-body injury. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek expected to play against Ottawa but was held out of the lineup because his concussion symptoms had not completely disappeared. Richard Park (broken foot) is also out.

Stat Pack: Two Sabres, Vanek and Derek Roy, both played their 500th NHL games on Friday. … The Penguins are 1-3-0 in their four games since Crosby went out of the lineup last week. … Pittsburgh scored twice in four power-play tries on Friday; the Penguins hadn't scored more than one PPG since Nov. 11.

Puck Drop: The Sabres are 6-7-3 since a four-game winning streak that ended on Nov. 11. They haven't won consecutive games since then.

"We need to get our swagger back, especially when we have the lead," Vanek said. "Sometimes that's all it takes. There's no miracle to it. Everyone here is a good player, so when we get the lead we have to go for the next one and bury a team. We didn't quite do that [against Toronto], but I think it was a step in the right direction."

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