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Penguins, Sabres try to bounce back after losses

by John Kreiser /

SABRES (2-1-0) at PENGUINS (3-0-2)


Season Series: It's the first of four meetings this season. Pittsburgh swept the season series in 2010-11, outscoring the Sabres 12-5, and has won the last six meetings.

Big Story: Both teams will be trying to bounce back after disappointing losses. The Sabres saw their home opener spoiled Friday night when Carolina got a goal by Jeff Skinner with 1:24 left in regulation for a 4-3 win, while the Penguins lost 3-2 in overtime to Washington at the Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

Team Scope:

Sabres: After impressive wins against Anaheim and Los Angeles during the Compuware NHL Premiere series in Europe last weekend, the Sabres might have been too revved-up for their home opener. They fired 42 shots, but undid a lot of the good things with turnovers and a late penalty that led to Skinner's late game-winner.

The Sabres were 0-for-6 on the power play and allowed two shorthanded goals, much to the consternation of coach Lindy Ruff.

"We created a great number of opportunities," Ruff said, "but we gave up some beauties, and all those beauties were given up because of plays we didn't need to make -- stickhandling at the blue line, a blind behind-the-back pass that turned into a goal. Those types of plays are hope."

Penguins: Just as the Penguins have dominated the Sabres, the Washington Capitals have dominated the Pens. Pittsburgh outshot the Caps 41-19 on Thursday and allowed Washington just one power play all night. Unfortunately for the Penguins, it came in overtime -- and Dennis Wideman scored for a 3-2 win.

Still, coach Dan Bylsma said Friday he saw a lot of good things.

"In terms of the overall game, we are heads and tails better than we are in the previous four (games) in terms of trying to get to our game, pinning teams back, playing with quickness and speed, getting the shot total up, offensive zone time, chances, limiting the other team's chances," he said. "The chances against, I don't have a final total, but during the game it was very minimal against. That's a lot like we want to play."

Who's Hot: Thomas Vanek has three goals in Buffalo's first three games. … Pittsburgh's James Neal leads the NHL with four goals -- a big change from last season, when he scored only once in 20 games after arriving in a late-season trade from Dallas.

Injury Report: Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht (concussion) has yet to play this season. … Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby got the OK this week to take contact at practice, though there's no word when he'll be ready for game action. Defenseman Brooks Orpik (hernia surgery) still hasn't played this season. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury missed Thursday's game with the flu but expects to be ready.

Stat Pack: The Penguins are unbeaten in regulation through five games for the fourth time in franchise history and the first time since they started 12-0-1 in 1994-95. … But Neal and Matt Cooke (3) are the only Penguins with more than one goal -- in all, 10 players have turned on the red light. … Pittsburgh is 15-4-1 in its last 20 meetings with Buffalo.

Puck Drop: Crosby may have the medical OK to take hits in practice, but suffice it to say that none of his teammates will be looking to nail him. That makes it hard to replicate game action for a player who hasn't taken the ice for real since early January.

"It's pretty hard," he said after Friday's practice. "Even typically when we practice, it's not the same physicality as you'd see in a game. If you can get close to that and get used to some more bodies out there, that was the first time in a little bit I was a part of the power play and normal movement, that sort of thing. All that stuff takes timing and getting used to. It's good to get that stuff too."

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