Greetings from HSBC Arena as the Pittsburgh Penguins are back in town for the second time in 11 days. They won here in a shootout, 2-1, on Dec. 19 by beating Patrick Lalime. Ryan Miller will be in goal for Buffalo tonight
The Penguins head from Buffalo to New Jersey for an Atlantic Division showdown with the first-place Devils tomorrow night. Looks like backup goalie Brent Johnson will play in that one. Coach Dan Bylsma floated using Johnson to tonight but must have looked at his horrendous stats against the Sabres since the lockout (0-4, 7.79 GAA, .809 save percentage) and decided against it. Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start, his seventh straight.
Speaking of the Devils, old friend Andrew Peters has run afoul of coach Jacques Lemaire for getting ejected Monday against Atlanta for not having his jersey tied down as he fought former Sabre Eric Boulton. Peters, who had been a healthy scratch for 10 of the previous 11 games, was on the ice for just 13 seconds before getting tossed. He sounds pretty apologetic in the story linked above and he better be because Lemaire was not amused.
In the cheap plug alert column, I had some good talks after today's morning skate with Sidney Crosby and East Amherst native Brooks Orpik about the upcoming Olympics. Crosby will be officially named to Team Canada when its roster is revealed today at noon. Orpik is on the bubble for a call from Team USA, which will announce its team during Friday's Winter Classic from Boston. That's if the classic goes on -- rain is in the forecast for Fenway Park and a one-day postponement could certainly be in the offing there.
16:26 left: Things are pretty tight so far. Both teams have just one shot on goal.
15:34 left: Keep an eye on Fleury. He just got crunched by Vanek who was pushed on top of him by Brooks Orpik. Few seconds later, Fleury threw a glove into the chest of Grier after freezing the puck.
12:32 left: Guess that seat in the press box did wonders for Stafford. He drives to the net, cuts to the front and gets it to Gaustad, who taps it home on the backhand to tie the game at 3-3. Wild momentum switch. Stafford's first three-point game since his hat trick at Edmonton on Jan. 27.
10:13 left: I think Stafford should do his post-game presser with the Festivus pole next to his locker. Lalime, by the way, has stopped all 20 shots he's faced in this one.
9:55 left: Craig Adams gone for charging on Tim Kennedy.
9:05 left: And the power play comes through for the third game in a row. Pominville pots a Connolly feed just to Fleury's right. The Population hits 10 and the Sabres take a stunning 4-3 lead.
8:45 left: Montador goes for hooking. But even with all their talent, Pens are 28th in the NHL in road power plays. Bizarre.
7:52 left: Lalime makes save No. 23 on Kunitz from a few feet out and chirps at the Pen as he gets too close to him after the whistle.
6:33 left: Lalime stops Malkin from in tight just as the penalty expires. Shots are 7-5 for Pittsburgh (36-24 overall) and Lalime has made 25 saves.
23.5 seconds left: Net emtpy. Pens buzzing. Crowd buzzing. Staal and Gaustad go for slashing.
It's over: A HUUUUUGE 4-3 win. Final shots were 38-24 (9-5 in 3rd). That means Lalime blanked the Pens by making 27 saves. Wow.
18:32 left: Mike Grier is stopped and Miller is gone for the first time this season at home after Chris Kunitz blasts home a Crosby pass from the slot to make it 3-0. Miller just plain beaten on the glove. Miller tosses his stick, blocker and helmet down the tunnel behind the bench and takes a seat. OK, he's not laughing but that was pretty darned funny (Kudos to the comments section for pointing out Miller's yanking on Halloween on Long Island).
18:08 left: It gets worse as Hecht goes for hooking. By the way, it was three goals on 11 shots against Miller. That will do damage to the save percentage.
13:00 left: Just a thought -- how exactly did the Laffs win in the Igloo the other night?
11:00 left: Brutal shift by the Connolly line as it gets dominated for nearly a minute inside the Buffalo zone by the Crosby line. Lalime doing a good job holding the fort so far -- neat pokecheck in front on an open Crosby -- and the crowd gives a Bronx cheer as the puck finally gets out.
10:33 left: Godard in the box again for holding.
7:14 left: The Pens somehow kept the puck out of the net, with old friend Jay McKee covering it in the crease as Fleury was out of position -- but it was only a temporary repreive. That resulted in a penalty shot for Drew Stafford and he beats Fleury with a quick snap shot to make it 3-1 and break his 15-game drought. A Festivus miracle indeed. Stafford shoots his arms in the air in obvious relief after the puck went in.
6:42 left: Lalime makes a great glove grab on Matt Cooke's laser from the top of the slot.
5:05 left: Hold the phone. Festivus Miracle II as Stafford cuts to the slot, takes a MacArthur pass and pots his own rebound to suddenly make it 3-2. His ninth of the year.
3:46 left: Staal goes for tripping and the Sabres go for the tie. This baby has turned around quick.
2:30 left: The Sabres get a break literally as Maxime Talbot has a 2-on-1 -- and snaps his stick trying to shoot on Lalime. Weird.
End-2nd: It's 3-2 for the Pens and shots were 19-15 for Pittsburgh in that period (29-19 overall). That means Lalime made 18 straight saves after relieving Miller. Wow.
15:52 left: The Pens strike first as Jordan Staal scoops up a fat rebound Miller let bounce off his chest on a routine shot by Tyler Kennedy. Staal beat Henrik Tallinder to the puck, just as Chris Neil did for Ottawa on the Sentaors' second goal here Saturday. Bad news for the Sabres: The Penguins are 15-2-0 when scoring first this year and 29-2-2 since Dan Bylsma took over as coach in February.
14:12 left: No surprises on the Buffalo lines. Gaustad started between Clarke MacArthur and a back-from-the-press-box Drew Stafford. Then it was Grier-Kennedy-Vanek, Hecht-Connolly-Pominville and Mair-Ellis-Paetsch. Defense pairs are Butler-Rivet, Tallinder-Myers and Lydman-Montador.
9:18 left: Sabres generating little offense thus far as Pens have a 6-3 edge in shots and have had solid chances by Crosby and Tyler Kennedy since the Staal goal. The building is full and this will be the 12th sellout in 22 home games. But the place is dead-dead-dead. And it was that way even before Buffalo got down by a goal. First-place team. Cup champions in town. What gives?
8:00 left: The place woke up with groans as Hecht and Pominville both put a puck through the crease behind Fleury -- but past an open net. Great setup from Connolly to Montador got the flurry going.
5:58 left: Eric Godard goes for slashing the stick out of Butler's hands, a foolish penalty behind the Buffalo net in the offensive zone. Some girl named Heather Morris from some Fox show called "Glee" is in the house and in charge of the T-shirt launcher. Ridiculous how loud people will yell for a stupid free shirt. Am I supposed to have heard of her?
1:29 left: Haven't seen Miller give up two iffy goals like this too often this year. Bill Guerin makes it 2-0 with a floater from the right boards that the Buffalo goaltender simply didn't make a play on.
End-1st: Pens lead 2-0 through one and have a 10-4 edge in shots. Third time in four games Sabres have been pretty brutal in the opening 20 minutes -- and Vogl aptly points out shots are 44-9 against Buffalo in those three contests (at Washington, home to Ottawa and tonight). I'm sure we'll have a slew of comments requesting the callup of Jeff Cowan or Cody McCormick from Portland at any moment. People, people, people.