Here are the 3 biggest takeaways from the Penguins' Friday practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
1. Penguins not looking past Sabres
After practice, the Penguins headed to Buffalo for back-to-back games against the Sabres on Saturday and Sunday.
"We know these next two games are big for us," Jake Guentzel said. "They're playing some good hockey over there, so we've got to be ready and make sure we're at our best."
Pittsburgh is 4-0 against Buffalo so far this season, most recently earning a 4-0 win on March 25. A few days later, the Sabres ended their franchise-record winless streak at 0-15-3 - the NHL's longest in 17 years - with a 6-1 victory over Philadelphia. Since then, Buffalo has gone 5-2-2 - most recently beating the East Division-leading Washington Capitals on Thursday.
"I think speed is a great asset for them, and I think something we got to watch out for," Marcus Pettersson said. "I think their transition game is really good. When they turn pucks over their own blue line, they tranasition really quick. And that's kind of a staple of their team. So I think that's something we got to watch out for, make sure we put pucks deep and put pucks forward."
Ahead of Monday's trade deadline, the Sabres dealt four of their players to various teams - including their big offseason free agent acquisition Taylor Hall - in exchange for several draft picks. The only player added at the deadline was Anders Bjork from Boston as part of the Hall deal.
"I look at this team that has a lot of skill and some young talent that's playing with a lot of enthusiasm, and in a lot of ways - when they're in the circumstance that they're in and they made some trades at the deadline - they're playing the game with a free spirit," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "And those are dangerous teams to play against. We're going to have to bring our very best. We know that."
2. Dumoulin extends career-long point streak
Brian Dumoulin is known for his play on the defensive side of the puck, not necessarily the offensive side. But lately, the steady, reliable blueliner has been putting up points at a steady, reliable pace, as the reigning Mustache Boy extended his career-long streak to six games in Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss to Boston.
"When you play consistent like that over a period of time, you're going to get rewarded," Marcus Pettersson said. "I like to believe in some form of hockey gods and that you kind of pile up credits and they're going to come back for you. I think that's what he's been doing throughout his whole career, and you can see the fruits of that right now."
Last night, Dumoulin picked up the secondary assist on Sidney Crosby's goal in the second period. After breaking his stick, the captain handed his over. Using Crosby's twig, Dumoulin made a breakout pass to his partner Kris Letang, and the rest was history, but not a surprise.
"Dumo brings the same game each and every night that we rely on to help us win games," Sullivan said. "He's so positionally sound, he's a mobile guy, he defends well with his stick, his mobility and his smarts. I've always been a believer that he's a guy that helps us generate offense even though he may not end up on the scoresheet each and every night.
"He makes good outlet passes. He's not just an off the glass and out guy. He joins the rush with his mobility. He helps us with our possession. … He does a lot of things well that I think go unnoticed that help our team as a group generate offense."
So his coaches and his teammates are thrilled that Dumoulin is currently being rewarded on the scoresheet right now, with two goals, four assists and six points over that span. Dumoulin's streak is currently the longest active point streak by an NHL defenseman, and only three players have a longer active point streak than Dumoulin's six games.
"It's the way he plays with the puck in the O-zone, he does those subtle things just to help us forwards," Guentzel said. "Really excited to see him have this success with the offensive side of things. He's just a really good, solid player, and it's nice to see him get through with some points here."
The Penguins used the same top-nine as they did in Thursday's game, but the fourth line had a different look. Sam Lafferty did not participate in rushes, so Colton Sceviour took his place on the right wing, while Radim Zohorna slotted into his spot.
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Sullivan also said that Evgeni Malkin (lower-body, 14 games missed) and Kasperi Kapanen (lower-body, 10 games missed) are continuing to skate, while Brandon Tanev (upper-body, five games missed) has not skated yet to this point.
"But they're all making progress, and that's the encouraging thing," Sullivan said of the injured forwards.