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Reeling Penguins hope to rebound against Sabres

by Alan Robinson /
PITTSBURGH-- This is becoming uncomfortably familiar for the Pittsburgh Penguins – another game, another loss, another injury.
Neither the Penguins nor the Sabres held a formal morning skate in advance of their Saturday night game after each played Friday. But while the Sabres were beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 thanks to Thomas Vanek's two goals, the Penguins were giving up five goals in the second period of a 6-4 loss at Ottawa.
The defeat was Pittsburgh's fourth in five games and dropped them to 1-3 during Sidney Crosby's second concussion-related layoff of the season. And it's not just Crosby's injury that is affecting the Penguins, who have dropped from first place to fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings during the last two weeks.
They also played Friday without defensemen Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek (concussions), two-way forward Jordan Staal (lower-body injury), center Richard Park (broken foot). And it got worse -- defenseman Paul Martin, who has upgraded his play in recent weeks following a slow start, left in the third period with an unspecified lower-body injury.
Coach Dan Bylsma planned to announce shortly before game time if any of the injured players could return against the Sabres, who won in Pittsburgh 3-2 on Oct. 15 after being swept in the four-game series last season.  Michalek appears to be the closest to returning, but he has been bothered this week by headaches related to his concussion.
Evgeni Malkin has three goals and four assists in his last four games, including a goal and an assist on Friday.
If Martin can play, and the Penguins did not recall anyone to replace him, here's how Pittsburgh's lineup could look in the first of consecutive home games. They remain home to play the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. Pittsburgh has dropped its last two at home to Boston (3-1) and Detroit 4-1).
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Joe Vitale - Arron Asham
Matt Cooke - Pascal Dupuis - Tyler Kennedy
Steve MacIntyre - Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Paul Martin - Deryk Engelland
Simon Despres - Alexandre Picard
Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net after his scheduled day off Friday was shortened by Bylsma's decision to play him in the third period, when he allowed a goal. Brent Johnson gave up all five Senators goals in the second period. Fleury is 4-1-0 in his last five starts against the Sabres.
The Sabres, also troubled by injuries during a recent stretch in which they have gone 6-7-3, held a team meeting at their hotel Saturday morning in lieu of a full-team morning skate. There is a chance that right wing Patrick Kaleta could return from a groin injury that has kept him out of 10 of the last 11 games. Their likely lineup:
Thomas Vanek - Paul Szczechura - Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Matt Ellis - Luke Adam - Zack Kassian
Marc-Andre Gragnini - Paul Gaustad - Cody McCormick
Christian Ehrhoff - Jordan Leopold
Robyn Regehr - Andrej Sekera
Brayden McNabb - Mike Weber
Ryan Miller is expected to be in goal after stopping 29 shots against Toronto; Miller is 3-0-2 with a 2.95 goals-against average since he was out for eight games with a concussion. Miller is 0-4-1 in his last six starts against Pittsburgh.  Jhonas Enroth won in Pittsburgh two months ago but is 1-5-1 in his last seven starts.
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