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Penguins vs. Sabres Game Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 10-5-1-21
Road: 10-3-1-21

WHEN: Dec. 11, 2010 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: HSBC Arena
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Buffalo Sabres
Home: 6-8-1-13

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres 
Thomas Vanek
F  -  #26
  13 Goals
  11 Assists
  24 Points
• Tallied career-highs with 43 goals and 81 points as a sophomore NHLer—since entering the league in 2005, the sniper has recorded at least 25 goals in each season.

• As a freshman, Vanek led the University of Minnesota to their second-consecutive national championship in 2003 and was named the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player.

• Was a teammate of current Penguin and Minnesota native Paul Martin on that championship squad.
Jason Pominville
F  -  #29
  3 Goals
  5 Assists
  8 Points
• With his shorthanded tally in Buffalo’s 6-3 win over San Jose on Thursday, Pominville has now scored at least one shorthanded goal in five of his six full NHL seasons.

• The right winger, who played in all 82 games for four-straight seasons, had his ironman streak snapped on Oct. 11 after sustaining a concussion.

• He posted strong offensive numbers over that stretch, recording 66 or more points in each of those seasons.
Tyler Myers
D  -  #57
  5 goals
  4 assists
  9 points
• The 6-foot-8 blueliner won the Calder Memorial Trophy last season as the NHL’s rookie of the year.

• He finished the 2009-10 campaign ranked 3rd among rookies and 11th among the league’s defenseman with 48 points (11G-37A).

• Earned a career-high plus-5 rating in Thursday’s game and has a team-leading three game-winning goals.
When the Penguins traveled to HSBC Arena to battle the Sabres on Nov. 24, Marc-Andre Fleury earned a shutout and Pascal Dupuis scored the game-winning goal as Pittsburgh topped Buffalo, 1-0.

The Sabres may have been held scoreless that game but their offense has been clicking ever since, barreling to a 4-1-1 record since that contest. Their most recent victory came on Thursday when they topped San Jose 6-3, tying their season-high for goals in a game.

Forwards Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek have been continuing to put up solid numbers for the Sabres, ranking 1-2 in team scoring. The 26-year-old Vanek has been enjoying a hot streak, recording points in 11 of his past 14 games. He’s tallied three times in the past two games for a squad-leading 13 goals.

But it’s the offensive contributions from all over the lineup that have fueled Buffalo’s recent surge, with their fourth line stealing the show on Thursday. Paul Gaustad scoring two goals and an assist after notching just two helpers in his previous 19 games, while Cody McCormick also had a three-point effort with a goal and two assists.

They’re dangerous in all facets defensively, with their blueliners tending to play a more offensive-minded game. Their mobile defensive corps, headlined by Tyler Myers, Andrej Sekera, Steve Montador and former Penguin Jordan Leopold, never shies away from joining the rush. To top it off, star goaltender Ryan Miller is back between the pipes.

The 30-year-old Miller, who did not play against the Penguins on Nov. 24, has been playing spectacular hockey since returning to the Sabres lineup on Nov. 26. Miller is playing with the confidence that earned him a career-high 41 wins and the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender last season, going 5-1-1 in his past six starts. He earned back-to-back shutouts on Dec. 3 and 4.
  • A win Saturday by the Penguins would be the team’s seventh straight on the road, equaling a franchise record achieved twice previously—once from Oct. 3, 2009 to Nov. 3, 2009, and again on March 14, 1993 to April 9, 1993. The Penguins’ six-game road winning streak is the longest in the NHL this season.
  • While Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller has been playing stellar lately, so has Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury, who recorded the 17th shutout of his career against Buffalo on Nov. 24, has a 12-0-1 record in his past 13 games. It’s the second-longest unbeaten stretch of his career, and a win on Saturday would equal his career-best streak.
  • With his assist on Dupuis’ tally in the Penguins’ 1-0 victory over the Sabres on Nov. 24, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby now has seven points (3G-4A) in his past five games against Pittsburgh’s Eastern Conference rival. He recorded six points (3G-3A) in four games against Buffalo last season, as Pittsburgh went 3-1 against the Sabres.
  • The Penguins have dominated the series against the Sabres recently, owing a 12-4-1 record against them since the beginning of the 2006-07 season.


Make Their Defense Play D - The Sabres defensemen are a mobile group that like to join the rush at every opportunity. Not only can they skate well, but they like to be active once they reach the offensive zone, pinching on plays and dipping down low. Following Friday’s practice, head coach Dan Bylsma stressed the importance of the Penguins doing this right back to the Sabres. “If we can get to the offensive zone, we can make their D play defense, which we need to do,” he said.

Take Miller Off His Game: When a goalie's playing like Miller has been, it’ll be tough to throw him off his game. The Penguins (especially their third and fourth lines) need to rattle the netminder by crashing the net hard and managing the puck in the offensize zone. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek put it best when he said “Any goalie doesn’t like traffic. So we’ll go hard and throw pucks at him, and any goalie is beatable then.”
C Jordan Staal, broken right hand (up to 2 weeks)
F Mike Comrie, lower-body (4)
F Evgeni Malkin, undisclosed (2)
C Tim Connolly, groin (day-to-day)
C Rob Niedermayer, knee (late December)
RW Drew Stafford, upper-body (day-to-day)
D Shaone Morrisonn, neck (day-to-day)
Crosby (26) Vanek (13)
Crosby (24) Roy (19)
Crosby (50) Roy (28)
Engelland (67) McCormick (73)
Letang (+16) Montador (+16)
Crosby (8) Vanek (6)
Cooke (2)
Two tied with (1)
Fleury (13-6-1) Miller (10-7-3)
Johnson (2.00) Miller (2.33)
Johnson (.931) Miller (.920)

Mark Letestu - The rookie center has rekindled his scoring touch, notching two goals in Pittsburgh’s 5-win over Toronto on Wednesday. He now has four points (2G-2A) in his past three contests. His six goals are tied for fifth among the league’s rookies and also on the team. And not only has Letestu been making his way onto the scoresheet; his play off the puck with speedy linemates Chris Conner and Tyler Kennedy has been an integral part of the team’s 11-game winning streak. 
Ryan Miller - Miller has started six-consecutive games, earning a 5-1-1 record in those contests. He posted back-to-back shutouts on Dec. 3 versus Ottawa and Dec. 4 versus Columbus. Prior to Buffalo’s 3-2 overtime loss to Boston on Dec. 7, Miller hadn’t allowed a goal since Nov. 27 and saw his career-best shutout streak snapped at 161 minutes, 35 seconds. He has turned away 175 of the last 185 shots he’s faced and has a .920 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against average so far this season.

Penguins Defense Is Hitting Its Stride   
Penguins Recall Forward Dustin Jeffrey 
Staal Continues Progression 
Penguins Report: Practice 12/10/10
Bryan Trottier Appearance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Winter Classic Store in the Strip District Saturday, December 11 
Sidney Crosby: Away from the Numbers        
Penguins Entertain Students at Practice      
Penguins Report: School Open Practice           

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Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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