The Sabres have not met Sidney Crosby since Dec. 11, 2010 -- the night Pittsburgh native Mike Weber got physical with him (right) -- and that will finally change tonight with the Penguins in town. Crosby hasn't played in the first three meetings this season and missed the final two last year because of the concussion issues that have plagued him since the 2011 Winter Classic against Washington.
Crosby has 10 goals, 15 assists and 25 points in 20 career games against the Sabres and has a 12-game point streak against Buffalo (6-10-16). The last time he didn't register a point against the Sabres was in a 4-1 Buffalo victory at Mellon Arena on April 3, 2007.
Crosby has 13 points (2-11-13) in nine games since making his second return to the lineup this season March 15 in Madison Square Garden. Overall for the season, he has 25 points in 17 games (4-21-25) and a plus-13 rating.
"To see the best player in the world come back and to be able to compete against him is a great challenge," Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold, a former Crosby teammate, told me today. "I think it's a lot of fun. I've chatted via text a few times with him to see how he was doing and it's great to see him back."
"He's the best player in the league. He's entertaining and a good model for the league," Sabres center Tyler Ennis said. "Everybody knows how hard he works and how committed he is. I don't think anyone was really surprised that he came back and picked right up."
There's no 1-2 punch in hockey like Crosby and likely Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin (47-53-100).
"They're both tremendous players, highly skilled on the rush," coach Lindy Ruff said today. "One can come with more power. In Crosby's case, it's forehand, backhand, beat you one-on-one. Malkin can do the same. We know they're both world-class. we know that we're going ot have to pay special attention. At the same time, we want that team to worry about how we're playing too."
Looks like the Sabres will be facing backup Brent Johnson in goal as Marc-Andre Fleury, who lost last night on Long Island and has already played 64 games this season, took the Pens' optional morning skate with the team's healthy scratches. (The big names like Crosby were not here)
Johnson has been out with an undisclosed injury since getting pulled against the Sabres on Feb. 19. He has terrible career numbers against Buffalo (6-5-0, 3.76, .867) and has been brutal against everyone this year (3-7-2, 3.17, .882), but the Penguins likely need to save Fleury for Sunday afternoon's fourth-place showdown against Philadelphia.
Washington is idle tonight. The Sabres will make up their game in hand and need at least one point to maintain their hold on eighth place. Ruff's meeting with the media this morning is below.
Buffalo News file photo: Weber and Crosby/Mark Mulville