Evgeni Malkin has held Pittsburgh's offense together in Sidney Crosby's absence, but it hasn't been enough to keep the Penguins in first place in the Atlantic Division.
Led by Malkin's torrid play, the Penguins look to move back into a tie for the Atlantic's top spot when they continue their season series with the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.
Pittsburgh (32-21-5) has fallen two points out of first in the Atlantic, as New Jersey took over the division lead with its 3-2 win over Ottawa on Saturday night. The Devils are off until a matchup with Carolina on Monday.
The Penguins' recent struggles haven't helped their position, having lost two straight since a three-game winning streak. They haven't lost three in a row since a four-game skid from Nov. 7-12.
But Pittsburgh's problems certainly aren't due to a dropoff in play from Malkin. He found the back of the net for the fifth straight game Thursday night, but the Penguins lost 4-2 to Carolina and fell to 6-4-2 since Crosby sprained his ankle.
"We're missing a lot of players and you know on the road it is eventually going to catch up with you," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "I think the last two games have been tough. We just have to regroup."
Malkin has been outstanding in Crosby's absence, tallying 10 goals and 13 assists since replacing the star center on Pittsburgh's No. 1 line. The second-year player has 33 goals and 75 points, three behind Washington's Alexander Ovechkin for the league lead, and is riding a seven-game point streak (six goals, 11 assists).
In six games against Buffalo (28-21-8), Malkin has just two goals and one assist. But the Penguins have won both of their matchups with the Sabres this season, including a 2-1 shootout victory on Jan. 1.
That win was on the road, where the Penguins have lost a season-high three straight. They are 15-11-2 away from Mellon Arena on the season.
The Sabres, meanwhile, are 4-0-1 at home since a four-game skid there, but are coming off a 5-1 road loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday. Buffalo, which had a three-game winning streak end, lost in regulation for the first time in 11 games since a 6-2 defeat to Phoenix on Jan. 21.
"We got outbattled in the paint. We got outbattled behind the net," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "It hasn't happened in a long time."
Ryan Miller struggled Saturday after giving up just one goal over his previous two games. He was pulled after the Rangers went up 4-0 after 12:25 of play.
Miller had been 8-0-1 since a loss to Toronto on Jan. 19, posting a 1.53 goals-against average in that span. He has lost both of his starts versus the Penguins this season despite allowing only one goal in each, and is 2-2-2 with a 1.93 GAA in six games against them.
On offense, meanwhile, the Sabres have been held to one goal in back-to-back games after scoring five times in each of their previous two contests.
Thomas Vanek scored Buffalo's only goal Saturday, giving him six in his last five games. The third-year winger has been held off the scoresheet in two games against Pittsburgh this season.