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Penguins visit Sabres in battle of high scorers

by Corey Masisak

PENGUINS (10-5-0) at SABRES (6-8-1)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 7-3-0; Buffalo 4-5-1

Season series: This is the first meeting. They split the season series in 2011-12.

Big story: Both teams have played well of late, and this is a matchup of players featured prominently on the NHL goals and points leaderboards.

Team scope:

Penguins: Aside from back-to-back losses to the New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh has been rolling this month. Dating to a 3-0 win against the New York Rangers on Jan. 31, the Penguins are yielding fewer than two goals per game (17 in nine contests). They haven’t given up more than three goals in a game during this stretch while scoring four-plus five times.

After the power play scuffled at the start of the season, the Penguins are up to second in the League with a 27.6 percent conversion rate. It helped Pittsburgh place four players in the top 20 in the League in scoring prior to the games Saturday.

James Neal was tied for the NHL lead in goals with the Buffalo Sabres' Thomas Vanek at 11, and Sidney Crosby was tied for second in points with 21, two behind Vanek.

Sabres: Buffalo went through a two-week stretch when a high-profile victory against the Boston Bruins masked a 1-6-1 run, but the Sabres have rebounded with wins in three of their past five.

A big part of the turnaround is the improved defense and goaltending. After yielding at least four goals in six straight games, the Sabres have allowed 10 in the past four contests.

Vanek doesn’t have any points in the past three games, yet he’s still pacing the League in goals and points. He’s always been a streaky scorer: He had eight goals and 13 points in the previous five contests.

Who's hot: Neal has five goals in the past five games, including an extra-man marker in each of the past three. … Buffalo forward Tyler Ennis has three goals and seven points in the past six games, including two assists in a second victory against Boston on Friday.

Injury report: Pittsburgh does not have injuries. … Buffalo will be without forward Ville Leino (hip), who has not played this season, and defenseman Andrej Sekera (lower body).

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