Pittsburgh Penguins (36-22-4-76) vs. Buffalo Sabres (33-18-9-75)
09-10 Season Series: Penguins lead 2-1 09-10 Home vs. Buffalo: Penguins lead 1-0 All-Time vs. Buffalo: Penguins lead 66-58-38 All-Time Home vs. Buffalo: Penguins lead 42-20-20 Overtime: Penguins lead 8-6-14 Shootout: Penguins lead 3-0
After missing the postseason in back-to-back seasons the Buffalo Sabres have spent almost the entire campaign atop the Northeast Division thanks to outstanding play between the pipes from Ryan Miller. However, the Sabres did struggle leading up to the break, posting a 1-4-2 record in February. They currently sit one point behind the Ottawa Senators for 1st place in the Northeast Division, and would face the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo is led by head coach Lindy Ruff, the NHL’s longest-tenured head coach. Ruff has been with Buffalo since 1997-98.
Mike Grier – Checking-line forward Grier returns for a second tour of duty in Buffalo after spending three seasons in San Jose. A superb penalty killer, Grier has 18 points (9G-9A) in 51 games.
Tim Kennedy – What Kennedy lacks in size at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, he more than makes up for in production. Kennedy has 18 points (6G-12A) in 56 games to complement a defensive game which is advanced for a 23-year-old rookie center.
Steve Montador - Montador plays bigger than his 6-foot, 211-pound frame in the defensive zone and has underrated puck skills in the offensive end. While he won’t wow you with his offensive ability, Montador has picked up 16 points (3G-13A) in 57 points.
Tyler Myers (left) – Buffalo’s rookie defenseman is a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy as the top-scoring rookie blueliner with 32 points (8G-24A) in 60 games. Myers ranks second among Buffalo defenseman with a plus-5 rating and leads the Sabres in average ice time at 23:33 minutes per game.
Tim Connolly – Buffalo’s leading scoring is playing the best hockey of his career with 55 points (14G-41A) through 60 games. One of the most underrated playmakers in the sport, Connolly’s 41 assists rank 14th in the NHL. He is tied with Jason Pominville for the team lead with a plus-10 rating.
Paul Gaustad – Gaustad is an excellent two-way center for the Sabres. He ranks fifth in the NHL with a 59.6 percent success rate on faceoffs. Gaustad ranks second on the Sabres with 86 hits despite playing only 48 games. He has picked up 16 points (9G-6A).
Patrick Kaleta – Kaleta brings tenacious grit to the bottom lines of the Sabres with team-leading totals of 73 penalty minutes and 108 hits. Although he averages just 9:54 minutes of ice time per game, Kaleta has chipped in eight goals and 11 points in 41 games.
Jason Pominville – The three-time 20-goal scorer is tied for second on the Sabres in both goals (16) and points (43). He leads the Sabres with 182 shots. Pominville has been a Penguins killer throughout his career with seven goals in 17 career games, including tallies in all three games this season.
Drew Stafford – The emerging power forward had one of the finest performances of his career against the Penguins on Dec. 29 when he scored twice and picked up an assist to spur a 4-3 come-from-behind victory. He ranks fifth on the team with 13 goals, five of which have come on the man-advantage.
Thomas Vanek – One of the best pure goal scorers in the NHL, Vanek has overcome a slow start to lead the Sabres with 18 goals. Vanek also has a team-high eight power-play tallies. The two-time former 40-goal scorer can score from anywhere in the offensive zone, but is particularly effective around the slot.
Tim Connolly Thomas Vanek
Chris Butler – A breakout performer last season, Butler has improved his offensive numbers in year two, but has seen his rating drop to a minus-11 after posting a plus-11 figure in 47 games as a rookie last season. Butler, who trails only Tyler Myers in ice time among Sabres, has notched 19 points (1G-18A) in 48 games.
Toni Lydman – Lydman was a member of the Finnish squad which picked up a bronze medal on Saturday night. He is a sound defender who is more a tactician than he is a physical presence. Lydman ranks third among Buffalo blueliners with a plus-2 rating in 45 games.
Craig Rivet – Buffalo’s rugged captain is a physical force in the defensive end in addition to being a solid option offensively thanks to an overpowering shot. Rivet’s offensive numbers are down slightly with 12 points (1G-11A) in 58 games, but he is still effective as a penalty killer and moving the puck from his own zone.
Henrik Tallinder – Tallinder, who represented Sweden at the 2010 Olympics, is one of the more underrated blueliners in hockey. He is neither dynamic offensively nor a punishing defender, but Tallinder is one of those guys who is just solid all-around. He leads all Buffalo defenders with a plus-8 rating. Tallinder has spent his entire career with the Sabres.
Henrik Tallinder Chris Butler
Ryan Miller – Based upon his work in Vancouver the past two weeks, the Penguins are catching a major break with the news that Ryan Miller will be taking the night off on Tuesday. The MVP of the 2010 Olympics is also the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top netminder thanks to a 30-14-7 record, 2.16 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. Miller’s goals-against average and save percentage each rank second in the league. He also ranks in the top five in saves (1,486) and shutouts (5).
Patrick Lalime – Actually, based upon the way Lalime has fared against Pittsburgh this season, the Penguins might not be catching a break. Lalime stole a point for Buffalo by stopping 23 of 24 shots in a 2-1 Penguins victory on Dec. 19. He then picked up a victory in relief on Dec. 29 when he stopped all 27 shots he faced on Dec. 29. Overall, the former Penguin is 3-3-2 on the season with a 3.21 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.
Ryan Miller Patrick Lalime
Derek Roy – Roy might be one of the smallest players in the NHL at 5-foot-9 but when he is also one of the shiftiest players in the game. He is tied with Jason Pominville for second on the team with 43 points (16G-27A) in 58 games. Roy’s numbers are actually down slightly this season following three-straight 70-point campaigns, including a team-high 70 points (28G-42A) last season. Roy is the quintessential Sabres forward with great speed, creativity and an attention to detail defensively. He picked up a goal and an assist against the Penguins back on Feb. 1.
"We proved in the beginning we're a good team. We came back from two-goal deficits, three-goal deficits. … I think the potential is in here. We've just got to get back to playing our best team game." - Sabres forward Jochen Hecht talking to Yahoo! Sports about the Sabres recent struggles.
"I would almost expect them to (give a standing ovation) to Ryan Miller. I would if I was an American fan in the stands. You cheer for Ryan Miller and then you hope we score on him. That is what I think is going to happen from our fans." - Head Coach Dan Bylsma on the reaction he expects from Penguins fans for Ryan Miller.
"Ryan Miller was the best goalie of the tournament. He was our best player every game." - Team USA defenseman Erik Johnson speaking to NHL.com.
15, 16 The Penguins will play 15 games over the final 30 days of March while the Sabres will hit the ice for 16 contests in the same time period
3-5-2 Buffalo went into the Olympic break as one of the coldest teams in the league with just a 3-5-2 mark over their final 10 games