Fresh off a gutsy come-from behind victory over division rival Boston Friday night, the Buffalo Sabres seek to build on that momentum and maintain some sort of consistent play against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.
It won’t be easy: the Penguins will enter First Niagara Center with a record of 10-5, a goal differential of +13, and an away record of 7-2, thanks to the fact that they only average 2.00 goals against on the road. Just what the Sabres wanted to run into as they tried to fight their way back to a .500 record: a team that is better on the road than they are at home. Add to that the fact that the Penguins suit up Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, and Chris Kunitz, who have already amassed 69 points (26 goals, 43 assists) among them this season, and you have . . . yikes. Just yikes.
As if all of those statistics are not enough cause for concern, Sabres fans enter this game wondering, “Where have Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville gone?” After his other-wordly start, Vanek has failed to score a point in three straight games, and in four of the last six. It’s not fair to expect him to continue the pace he set at the beginning of the season, but then again, we don’t want to see him go stone-cold, either. Meanwhile, Pominville hasn’t picked up a point in five consecutive affairs. Eesh. Fortunately, neither of their services were required for Friday’s win against the Bs, but I’m of the opinion that Buffalo is better with Vanek and Pominville scoring – Captain Obvious, reporting for duty! – and that Buffalo is going to need some offensive production from them if they hope to outscore the high-scoring Penguins. Hop on the good foot, fellas! Whatever that means . . . .
Lest you think I have nothing optimistic to say as I look ahead to this game, I present to you Ryan Miller. IN his last four starts, Miller’s posted a 2.01 GAA, and has been the only reason why Buffalo nearly stole games from Boston and Ottawa, and did steal one from the New York Islanders. It will be a monumental challenge to keep the Penguins from scoring more than two goals – and if the evil twin of the Sabres defense shows up on Sunday, it might be a challenge to keep Pittsburgh under five – but the way he’s playing, I’m not willing to bet against him right now.
Today’s game starts at 12:30, and is being broadcast on NBC, so if you can’t come to the game, tune in and watch while you follow us on Twitter @sabrenoise. Enjoy Hockey Day in America, and go Sabres!!!!!!!!!