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Penguins try to make it a dozen as they face Sabres

by Sergei J. Feldman /
PENGUINS (20-8-2) at SABRES (12-13-4)

TV -- FS-P (HD), MSG-B (HD)

Last 10 --
Pittsburgh 10-0-0; Buffalo 5-4-1

Season Series --
This is the second of four meetings between the two original Winter Classic guinea pigs. The Penguins came out on top Nov. 24 with a 1-0 victory against the Sabres. Pascal Dupuis scored the game's only goal, while Marc-Andre Fleury recorded a 30-save shutout.

Big Story -- No shortage of streaks will be on the line when the two teams meet, as the Penguins aim to claim their 12th consecutive victory, while captain Sidney Crosby looks to extend his points streak to 18 games. The Sabres are in the midst of a three-game homestand and look to ride the momentum from a 6-3 victory against the Sharks on Thursday night.

Team Scope:

Penguins -- In addition to the superb play of Crosby and Fleury during the team's current hot streak, the Penguins have relied upon contributions from role players and effective special teams. Forward Chris Kunitz is in the midst of a quiet four-game points streak, while third-liners Mark Letestu, Chris Conner and Tyler Kennedy have done nothing but keep opponents pinned in their own zone. The recent team success has come with a banged up Evgeni Malkin, who has missed the past three games, and Jordan Staal, who hasn't played all season.

"We still have a long way to go to get to where we think we can be," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think with the mindset that we have, the players we have, we go over the boards every game thinking we can dictate the game and the pace."

Sabres -- Riding a 4-1-1 streak, the Sabres are no pushover. Hungry to climb back into Eastern Conference contention (they currently sit in ninth place), the Sabres can use their stretch of December home games to do just that. Jason Pominville has points in four of his past five games to help stabilize the Sabres' balanced attack, led by sniper Thomas Vanek and his 4 goals in the past four games.

Coach Lindy Ruff liked what he saw from his team offensively against the Sharks saying, "We got six (goals) and we could have had more."

Who's hot -- Crosby, Kunitz, defenseman Kris Letang and Fleury have been lights-out for the Penguins during their winning streak, while Vanek and Pominville have been holding the fort for the Sabres of late, as goalie Ryan Miller has allowed three goals in three of his past five starts.

Injury Report -- Malkin is slated to take the morning skate prior to the drop of the puck against the Sabres before deciding whether he will play or not. He is bothered by a knee injury that has been day-to-day. … Drew Stafford and Tim Connolly are both doubtful against the Penguins with upper-body and groin injuries, respectively.

Stat Pack -- Crosby's 50 points through 30 games makes him the first player to accomplish that feat since 2002-03, when former landlord and current team owner Mario Lemieux did the same.

Puck Drop -- Crosby is 4 assists shy of being the League leader in goals, assists and points. … Buffalo's six goals against the Sharks were their most scored in a home game this season as the Sabres to climb to a .500 record on the year.

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