Last time the Pittsburgh Penguins came to town, Conor Sheary scored his second goal of the game to cap a comeback victory for the Sabres in overtime. It was the second such win against the Penguins this season, following another thriller in November that saw the Sabres erase a 4-1 deficit on the road.
Those wins have the Sabres in position to sweep their season series with a victory when the two teams meet at KeyBank Center tonight, a feat they haven't accomplished since the 2005-06 season.
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"Guys just kept fighting," Sabres coach Phil Housley said of their win over the Penguins on March 1. "I really liked the way we played in the third period. We were aggressive. We were throwing pucks to the net. The tying goal is a result of just guys trying to get into the interior and it goes off a shin pad.
"We need more of that. But it was a great game for our guys because they found that we can still do that and there's a belief there."
The Sabres have been shut out in two straight games, including a 2-0 loss to Dallas on Tuesday in which they were unable to solve goalie Ben Bishop despite generating 61 shot attempts. Sheary emphasized the importance of establishing a net-front presence to turn those attempts into goals.
"I think maybe we could've gotten in front of Bishop a little bit more," he said. "I think that's a key tonight, to get in front of the goalie and make it hard for him and make him fight through traffic, just make it a difficult night for him."
Carter Hutton will start in goal for the Sabres while Casey DeSmith is expected to get the nod for the Penguins.
Buffalo will be without Jack Eichel as he serves the second game of his two-game suspension. Housley shuffled his lines at practice on Wednesday, including teaming up his trio of young forwards with Casey Mittelstadt skating between Alexander Nylander and Tage Thompson.
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"We've become close off the ice and hopefully that can contribute to on the ice as well," Nylander said. "We're all really skilled, we all want to make plays and we want to work hard for each other. I think we can be a really good line and be really good defensively as well as being a threat offensively."
Casey Nelson will step in on defense in place of Zach Bogosian, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Nelson was a healthy scratch against Dallas on Tuesday.
"I just didn't see the urgency in some of his puck decisions and I didn't see him attacking the game, trying to get up ice making a difference," Housley said. "And that's going to happen. You get an injury like that, you rise up, you've got adrenaline flowing, you're playing some good hockey and then sometimes you come back down. It's good for him to get back in the lineup."
Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7.
Scouting the Penguins
Pittsburgh is 4-1-0 in its last five games, with at least one power-play goal in each of those four wins. The Penguins rank fourth in the NHL with a 25.3-percent success rate on the power play this season and first in the league with a 32-percent mark since the beginning of March.
"When those guys get hot, it's a scary unit and they're tough to stop," Sheary said. "If we can limit penalties and limit their opportunities in that aspect, I think that will help us."
92 Alexander Nylander - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 72 Tage Thompson
43 Conor Sheary - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 17 Vladimir Sobotka - 29 Jason Pominville
20 Scott Wilson - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
48 Matt Hunwick - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 62 Brandon Montour
6 Marco Scandella - 8 Casey Nelson
40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark
*Based on Wednesday's practice and subject to change