DETROIT – Opening night is finally here.
The Buffalo Sabres will start their season against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday in the first game of the year for both teams. Faceoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. and the game can be seen nationally on NBCSN.
The match-up will mark the NHL debuts of 19-year-old forward Zemgus Girgensons and 18-year-old defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who is also about to embark on his first professional season in North America. Girgensons was drafted by the Sabres 14th overall in 2012. Ristolainen was Buffalo’s first selection (eighth overall) in this year’s draft.
WATCH: ZEMGUS GIRGENSONS INTERVIEW
They aren’t the only young faces in the lineup against Detroit.
Defenseman Mark Pysyk, the 2010 first-round pick (23rd overall) who played 19 games with the Sabres last season, center Mikhail Grigorenko, a veteran of 25 NHL games at 19 years old, and Brian Flynn, who played 26 games for Buffalo in his first pro season last year, will also suit up.
“We have three teenagers in our lineup tonight, so I think what really stands out for those guys is just how prepared they are in terms of every day, getting to the rink, the maturity that they have about their game and what they bring to the rink,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after the morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. “I’m sure there’s going to be growing pains with all those young players, but the one thing that we do know is they’re going to be prepared and they’re going to continue to prepare and they’re going to continue to get better.”
Only six players on the current roster have celebrated their 30th birthdays. Three players – Girgensons, Ristolainen and Grigorenko – have yet to turn 20. Rolston said that he will look to the veterans to show the less experienced players the way.
“They have to set the tone for our team and that starts with the work and the effort that they’re putting and just being able to help our younger players continue to develop,” Rolston said. “In situations like this, be examples for our younger guys so they know how to follow and make sure they’re getting prepared too. With a younger team, there’s a lot of onus on obviously the coaching staff, but also those veterans to really help those guys come along.”
WATCH: RASMUS RISTOLAINEN INTERVIEW
Co-captain Thomas Vanek, who will serve as an alternate Wednesday night, said that having the season opener against a team like the Red Wings will serve as a good measuring stick for his club.
“For us, it’s a good challenge right off the bat to see where we’re at and where we need to improve,” he said.
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 63 Tyler Ennis – 23 Ville Leino
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 65 Brian Flynn
12 Kevin Porter – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Buffalo Sabres wrap up their preseason schedule Friday and the coaching staff is still tinkering with the roster in order to find the right combinations heading into the season opener in Detroit on Oct. 2.
Injuries have played a part in how the lineup will look against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. The morning skate featured different line combinations and defensive pairings – some of which haven’t been tested durng games yet – including some players in less familiar positions. Faceoff is at 7 p.m. from PNC Arena.
“We’re trying to get some people who will be good guys for chemistry and are abrasive and [Ott’s] one of those players for us,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after practice. “With the injuries we’ve had this year, we’re just still looking for those combinations and I think he’s a guy who can go out and make space for those guys and get to the net.”
Brian Flynn, who has primarily played right wing in training camp, will be on the left wing with center Tyler Ennis and right wing Drew Stafford. Rolston said that he thinks Flynn’s versatility and speed will be assets on that line.
Flynn sees the chance to play with those more offensive-minded players as a great opportunity.
“If I’m in there, I’m excited and happy to be there. I obviously want to take advantage of it,” he said. “Wherever I’m playing, whatever line I’m on, whatever position I’m playing, it really doesn’t matter to me.”
WATCH: BRIAN FLYNN INTERVIEW
Center Kevin Porter is slated to be on the left wing of the team’s fourth line with Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta. Johan Larsson skated with John Scott and Kaleta on Wednesday and Rolston decided to go with a different look for Friday. Larsson has played in five of the team’s seven preseason games, but will be a healthy scratch against Carolina.
“We’ve seen a lot of [Larsson]. We like what he does and he like his game a lot. He’s a real bright, bright young player, very competitive and he’s got a real good future,” Rolston said. “Tonight, we’re just toying with the lineup a little bit in terms of our fourth line with Cody and Kevin Porter. Kevin’s in a little bit of a different spot, but again, just trying to find that right, total picture for our forward package going into the season.”
“[The Hurricanes] have the last change and those young players are going to be put in a lot of tough situations, tough matchup situations,” Rolston said. “So it was an opportunity for us to get a real good evaluation on some of those guys.”
Luke Adam and injured forwards Marcus Foligno (upper-body strain), Corey Tropp (broken jaw) and Joel Armia (broken hand) did not make the trip. Tropp and Armia are expected to miss several weeks while Foligno could be ready to go by the first game of the year.
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 9 Steve Ott
65 Brian Flynn – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 23 Ville Leino
12 Kevin Porter – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
Buffalo Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after the morning skate Wednesday that right wing Corey Tropp will miss approximately 5-6 weeks after having surgery to repair a broken jaw. Tropp sustained the injury in a fight with Maple Leafs forward Jamie Devane in the third period of Buffalo’s 5-3 loss to Toronto on Sunday.
The Sabres host the Columbus Blue Jackets in an exhibition game Wednesday night at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m.
WATCH: STEVE OTT INTERVIEW
Rolston said Tropp also had a concussion, but has been cleared on that front.
Tropp missed 72 games last season with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League after injuring his knee in the first game of the 2012-13 campaign.
“That’s one of the most unfortunate things about the whole incident in Toronto, I think is the fact he missed the whole year last year with an injury that was pretty much a fluke situation where he got hurt.” Rolston said. “For this to happen early on, I think he was in the right mindset. He was playing really well in camp. He was excited so it’s unfortunate. You feel for that, for Corey and players that have that happen to them.”
Marcus Foligno, who was also injured in the third period Sunday, has an upper-body strain and is expected to be ready by the Sabres’ season opener in Detroit on Oct. 2. He’ll likely miss the final preseason game against Carolina on Friday.
“I wouldn’t think he’s going to be there for Friday, but you never know," Rolston said. "He feels a lot better today, so I would say [he'll be back for the] opener to be realistic.”
Cody McCormick was back on the ice after missing practice on Monday with a hand injury. He will not play on Wendesday, but Roston said there’s a good chance he’ll be ready for the game in Carolina.
Rolston responded to questions about the fine he received from the League regarding “player selection and team conduct” that led to the line brawl in Toronto.
“I’m not going to go into a long explanation on it, but it’s part of what they do and they have to make a decision on what’s best for the League,” Rolston said. “Those are things we can’t control, so we do what is handed down and go from there.”
WATCH: RON ROLSTON INTERVIEW
Rolston said he did not say anything to forward John Scott before leaving him on the ice for the face off after the Tropp fight that ignited the incident.
After a series of cuts on Monday, the team is basically down to five forward lines and nine defensemen. Rolston said that the makeup of the roster is “fairly close” to what it will look like on opening night.
More decisions will have to be made in the coming days and young players like Rasmus Ristolainen, Johan Larsson, Mikhail Grigorenko, Joel Armia and Zemgus Girgensons will have another chance to impress in front of the home crowd.
On defense, Henrik Tallinder and Tyler Myers have been in a pairing since Monday. The two last played together during the 2009-10 season when Myers was named Rookie of the Year. Wednesday will mark the first game action they’ll see together since then.
WATCH: HENRIK TALLINDER INTERVIEW
“We’ve been together for two days so it’s different when you practice compared to games because in games, everything happens so quickly and there are a lot of situations out there that you can’t predict what’s going to happen,” Tallinder said.
“So that’s where you read off each other. But we read off each other pretty good last time we played together so hopefully we can get that chemistry going again.”
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 63 Tyler Ennis – 23 Ville Leino
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 33 Joel Armia
32 John Scott – 22 Johan Larsson – 36 Patrick Kaleta
BLUE JACKETS LINEUP (via BlueJackets.com)
Forwards: Skille, Calvert, Craig, Umberger, Johansen, Marchessault, Smith, Chaput, Anisimov, Collins, Letestu, Foligno
Defensemen: Erixon, Wisniewski, Melart, Weber, Goloubef, Savard
Goalies: McKenna, Smith
Both Girgensons and Kaleta played Saturday night in the Sabres 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Rolston said Girgensons is dealing with some swelling in his hand while Kaleta was “just a little dinged up from the game – nothing major.”
The Sabres take on the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in the second half of the home-and-home series at 7p.m. The game can be heard live on ESPN 1520 AM.
Defenseman Jamie McBain played a game-high 27:02 against Toronto on Saturday in his first home game as a Sabre. He’ll have another go around to eat up minutes on Sunday when he steps back into the lineup at Air Canada Centre.
“I love that opportunity to play those minutes, to show my skill set and to show that I’m capable of playing those big minutes,” he said after practice at First Niagara Center. “It’s always a fun time when you’re playing a lot of minutes and I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunity.”
He’s one of a number of defensemen fighting for a spot in the Sabres opening night lineup in Detroit on Oct. 2. The Sabres traded for McBain at the NHL Draft in June (giving Andrej Sekera to the Hurricanes) after drafting two defensemen – Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov – that are still in training camp.
The team also re-signed Alexander Sulzer and acquired veteran defenseman Henrik Tallinder over the summer. Prospects like Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb and Chad Ruhwedel are gunning for positions as well.
McBain is taking the competition in stride and hopes he can prove himself to a new coaching staff.
“It’s kind of the same thing that it’s been every year. There are no for-sure spots,” McBain said. “You have to fight your spot, especially coming into a new organization where the coaches don’t know me; I’m not familiar with the coaches. You just have to go out there and prove yourself, showcase what I’m capable of doing and hopefully it’s good enough that the coaches appreciate it.”
MORNING SKATE - 10:30 a.m.
SESSION TWO - 11:30 a.m.
MORNING SKATE 10:30 a.m.
As the Buffalo Sabres experiment with different line combinations throughout the preseason, one line that’s had success in the past is being put back together.
For the first time at training camp this season, Tyler Ennis was playing center. He skated between left wing Marcus Foligno and right wing Drew Stafford and will take the ice with them when the Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The trio was arguably Buffalo’s best line at the end of the 2011-12 season, but wasn’t able to click last year.
“I’ve been on the wing. I’ve been working hard. I felt comfortable [at left wing] and I’m going to test out center tonight,” Ennis said after practice. “I’m going to work hard at it and hopefully we can rekindle some of that chemistry tonight and see how it goes from there.”
While he hasn’t scored a point yet this preseason, Ennis has had a noticeable jump in his step in the two preseason games he’s played in so far.
He’s also played with different linemates in each game. He played left wing in Columbus on Tuesday with rookies Johan Larsson and Joel Armia. On Thursday against Carolina, he was with center Mikhail Grigorenko and right wing Brian Flynn.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said part of the reason for the switch is that Ennis hasn’t had the puck enough in those first two games. He indicated that playing Ennis with two left-handed centers may have played a role as well.
“The thing with [Ennis] is he’s gotta have the puck. If he’s going to be the player that we want him to be and we know he can be, he’s gotta have the puck on his tape,” Rolston said. “We’re just trying to find that right combination so he can do that.”
Ennis started last season at center before moving to the wing as the year wore on. Ennis said that it’s important to have that versatility.
“I think it’s good to be able to play both positions. The first two games, I felt good on the wing. Hopefully I can pick up where I left off in the middle at some points last year and play well tonight,” he said.
82 Marcus Foligno – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott –25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 23 Ville Leino
28 Zemgus GIrgensons –12 Kevin Porter – 65 Brian Flynn
37 Matt Ellis – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber – 4 Jamie McBain
52 Alexander Sulzer – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
1 Jhonas Enroth
31 Matt Hackett
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP (via MapleLeafs.com)
SESSION TWO 12:30 p.m.
Forwards: Luke Adam, Joel Armia, Daniel Catenacci, Colton Gillies, Cody Hodgson, Johan Larsson, Tim Schaller, John Scott, Corey Tropp, Philip Varone, Thomas Vanek, Mike Zigomanis
Johan Larsson will see action in his third straight preseason game for the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. Buffalo takes on the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center and Larsson, who’s played both games on the road so far, is ready for his first game in front of a home crowd.
“I’m really excited to be here in front of these fans. I heard it’s very exciting here,” he said after practice.
Larsson, 21, was acquired from the Wild with Matt Hackett in the trade that sent Jason Pominville to Minnesota at the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline. Larsson has been playing center throughout camp and has pivoted a variety of wings including Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, Joel Armia and Drew Stafford. Thursday night, he’ll be between Corey Tropp and Ville Leino. The game can be heard live on WGR 550.
Larsson said he hopes to play in as many preseason games as he can and that his effort will lead to landing with the Sabres for their season opener on Oct. 2 in Detroit.
“If I play very well here and do everything I can, I have a chance I think and I’m going for that of course,” he said.
FOR THOSE ATTENDING THE GAME, CLICK HERE FOR TRAFFIC UPDATES
Sabres coach Ron Rolston has been impressed with Larsson’s play so far and has said he’s interested to see how the young forward adjusts from game to game in the exhibition portion of the schedule.
“I like his competitive nature. He’s hard to play against,” Rolston said. “He’s got really good hands, vision. He’s a very smart player. So again, those guys are going to get a lot of time here in the exhibition to see where they fit into the big picture.”
Ryan Miller will play the full game against Carolina. In each preseason game up to this point, the goaltenders have split time. It’s still possible at some point that Matt Hackett, Miller’s backup on Thursday, will get a complete game in as well.
“We’ve really liked how he’s played in the first two games,” Rolston said of Hackett. “He’s played exceptional for us so we’re just going to continue to get a feel for how things are going and then go from there.”
The Sabres will roll out a lineup against the Hurricanes that has some size on the blue line. Tyler Myers, Nikita Zadorov, Henrik Tallinder, Rasmus Ristolainen and Brayden McNabb are all at least 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. Mark Pysyk, at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, will be the smallest defenseman to dress.
Rolston said, however, that size isn’t everything.
“You still have to have the potential of going back to being able to move the puck, get around, end plays, all those things that are going to help us be a different hockey team in the future,” he said.
Zadorov is a player that could return to juniors, but Rolston continues to give him looks in the preseason and said he has a legitimate chance to make the squad.
“He’s got a shot. He certainly has a shot,” Rolston said. “He plays well and he can be somebody that makes the team. He’s got an opportunity, the same with Rasmus.”
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 33 Joel Armia
63 Tyler Ennis – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 65 Brian Flynn
78 Corey Tropp – 22 Johan Larsson – 23 Ville Leino
70 Colton Gillies – 12 Kevin Porter – 72 Luke Adam
Hurricanes Lineup (via Hurricanes.com)
19 Jiri Tlusty – 11 Jordan Staal – 22 Zac Dalpe
53 Jeff Skinner – 23 Jeremy Welsh – 14 Nathan Gerbe
58 Chris Terry – 39 Patrick Dwyer – 18 Radek Dvorak
13 Jared Staal – 42 Brett Sutter – 32 Zach Boychuk
4 Andrej Sekera – 27 Justin Faulk
7 Ryan Murphy – 65 Ron Hainsey
47 Michal Jordan – 73 Brett Bellemore
31 Anton Khudobin
70 Mike Murphy
Corey Tropp will put on a Sabres sweater for the first time since the 2011-12 season when he finished the season in Buffalo.
He played with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League at the start of 2012-13 due to the NHL lockout. In the Amerks first game, he scored two goals before injuring his knee and missed 72 games as a result. He returned to play five games at the end of the season and finished the year with two goals and two assists.
Tropp will be in the lineup on Tuesday when the Sabres travel to Columbus to play in their second preseason game at 7 p.m. at Nationwide Arena. The game can be heard live on WGR 550.
“I’d be lying to you if I told you two years ago when I finished the season that it would take this long to get back into another [NHL game],” Tropp said after practice Tuesday at First Niagara Center.
Tropp believes that playing in those five games in the spring really helped him heading into the offseason.
“That’s one of the real reasons I tried to make the comeback there. So you’re not sitting around all summer thinking, ‘How’s it going to hold up in that first exhibition game or intra-squad scrimmage game?’” he said. “[From] the mental side of it, playing those games helped a lot, I believe.”
Outside of participating in a prospect tournament for the Sabres two weeks ago in Traverse City, Mich., he’s yet to partake in an NHL game on North American ice.
“I’m not nervous today. It’s just exciting,” Armia, Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2011 (16th overall), said. “[Training camp] been a good experience to play with NHL guys here and get used to this place.”
“Tonight will be a good test with all our young players,” Rolston said. “We’re trying to get a gauge on just the game situations. For him, it puts him just like Rasmus the other night, into a North American building and just to see the pace of the game. You have to play a lot of hockey in your shift and so those are the things we’ll be looking for.”
Morning Skate 10:30 a.m.
Marcus Foligno – Cody Hodgson – Thomas Vanek
Zemgus Girgensons – Mikhail Grigorenko – Corey Tropp
Tyler Ennis – Johan Larsson – Joel Armia
John Scott – Matt Ellis – Jamie Tardif
Blue Jackets Roster (via BlueJackets.com)
Forwards: Anderson, Anisimov, Bjorkstrand, Boll, Foligno, Jenner, Joudrey, Machacek, MacKenzie, Marchessault, Moutrey, Umberger
Defensemen: Erixon, Johnson, McNeill, Savard, St. Denis, Tyutin
The future is coming on for the Buffalo Sabres.
The Sabres take on the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday at the Bell Centre for their first preseason game at 7:30 p.m. and the Buffalo lineup is filled with young players striving to make the NHL this season.
Among those players are five first-round picks from the past four years. Mark Pysyk (23rd overall, 2010), Mikhail Grigorenko (12th overall, 2012), Zemgus Girgensons (14th overall, 2012), Rasmus Ristolainen (eighth overall, 2013) and Nikita Zadorov (16th overall, 2013) will all be on the ice for Buffalo. The game can be heard live on WGR 550.
For Ristolainen, 18, it’ll be his first game on North American ice against NHL-ready players. The 6-foot-4, 224-pound Finnish defenseman played with Zadorov and Girgensons in a prospect tournament in Traverse City, Mich. last week, but being in an NHL training camp for just a few days has already made him aware of some key differences.
“There is more tempo than in Traverse and in the Finnish league,” Ristolainen said after the morning skate at First Niagara Center. “I think I’m [big enough where I] can play the plays, take a couple hits and win the battles.”
Ristolainen is ready for his first real professional experience in a building that will likely be very rowdy. The Habs had over 21,000 fans show up for a scrimmage on Saturday.
“I’ve been waiting a lot to play a game,” Ristolainen said. “It’s nice to play in Montreal. I’ve heard it’s one of the best rinks in this league and all the fans there so I’m so excited.”
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after practice that the preseason lineups will have a younger flair. The coaching staff is looking to give younger players an opportunity to showcase their talents while making sure the veteran players, while getting the necessary reps in, are well rested for the start of the season.
“There’s going to be a lot of opportunity for those [younger] players and they’re going to get a lot of time here in the exhibition,” Rolston said. “They’re important to where we’re headed. We have a lot of faith in all those guys so it’s going to be exciting to watch them grow even through this exhibition schedule.”
“We talked a little bit about combinations and we’re just trying to find the right chemistry, but also give guys opportunities like Zemgus playing with a guy like [Stafford] who’s a veteran offensively," Rolston said. "As far as [Larsson] goes, he’s a gritty, two-way center but he can make plays, so there are three guys there that can all make a play but we’ve got a lot of compete on that line, too.”
As the Buffalo Sabres prepare to face the New York Islanders in their final game of the regular season tonight at First Niagara Center, Ryan Miler is set to become the 62nd goaltender in NHL history to play in 500 games. Here’s a look back at some of the numbers Miller has accumulated during his outstanding 11-year NHL career in the Nickel City.
Born: July 17, 1980 (East Lansing, MI)
Drafted: 1999 Entry Draft, 5th round (138th overall)
Did You Know?
Ryan Miller has played more NHL games than the combined total of the 29 other players drafted in the fifth round of the 1999 Draft. (Leaders: Derek MacKenzie, 234; Niko Dimitrakos, 158).
Games played leaders from goaltenders drafted in 1999
Ryan Miller, 499 (Buffalo, 5th round)
Craig Anderson, 316 (Calgary, 3rd round)
Alex Auld, 237 (Florida, 2nd round)
Michael Leighton, 105 (Chicago, 6th round)
LISTEN TO MILLER TALK ABOUT THE 500-GAME MILESTONE
First NHL game: November 19, 2002 @ New Jersey (4-3 OTL)
First NHL win: November 22, 2002 vs. Columbus (5-4)
First NHL shutout: January 14, 2003 @ Minnesota (1-0)
SINGLE SEASON RECORDS:
Most wins: 41, 2009-10
Most shutouts: 6, 2011-12
Lowest GAA: 2.22, 2009-10
- Vezina Trophy, First All-Star Team, NHL Foundation Award: 2009-10
- won Silver Medal with Team USA
- Tournament MVP, Best Goalie & All-Star Team
- Miller will become the 62nd goaltender in NHL history to play 500 games. The last was Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who reached the milestone on April 5 at Pittsburgh. The last before Lundqvist was former Sabres goaltender Martin Biron, who also appeared in his 500th NHL game as a member of the Rangers in a road game against the Penguins, exactly one year prior to Lundqvist.
- When added to the list of 61 goaltenders who have played 500 NHL games, Miller currently ranks fifth with a .915 career save percentage. Dominik Hasek (.922, 1st) is the only retired goaltender to rank in the top 10 in save percentage among this group. Miller also ranks 14th among this elite group with a 2.59 GAA. In addition to topping the list in save%, Hasek also leads the “500 Club” with a GAA of 2.20.
- Miller, who has spent his entire career with the Sabres, will become the 20th goaltender in NHL history to play at least 500 games with one team, and the 12th to play his first 500 with the same team.
- Of the 19 goaltenders with 500 NHL games played with the same team, 12 of them played in the NHL Entry Draft era. Of these 12, half were drafted in the fifth round or later: Billy Smith, Miika Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Kirk McLean, Henrik Lundqvist and Marty Turco. Only two (Martin Brodeur and Olaf Kolzig) were selected in the first round.
- Despite being ranked 62nd on the all-time games played list, Miller ranks 40th in wins (268). His record ranks him second among these goaltenders in win percentage (.549), seventh in points percentage (.607) and 19th in adjusted points percentage (.564), a measure in which all ties, overtime losses, and shootout wins/losses are counted as regulation ties to better compare goaltenders from different eras.
PITTSBURGH -- It was an optional morning skate for the Buffalo Sabres at the Consol Energy Center, with seven skaters and both goalies taking part in advance of tonight’s tilt with the red-hot-but-hobbled Pittsburgh Penguins. In addition to expected starting goaltender Ryan Miller, the following players were on the ice for the 30-minute workout: Jhonas Enroth, Brian Flynn, Marcus Foligno, Nathan Gerbe, Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Pysyk, Mikhail Grigorenko and Adam Pardy.
No lineup changes are expected as forward Patrick Kaleta remained in Buffalo with a hand injury. Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be in the lineup for a second straight game, after skating 15:18 last night against Winnipeg, his first NHL action since March 12 after being recalled from junior last week.
The last time the Sabres came to Pittsburgh on April 2, they brought an end to the Penguins’ 15-game winning streak, the second-longest such streak in NHL history. Tonight they’ll look to snap another successful run, as the Penguins come into the game as winners of seven in a row following a 3-1 victory in Ottawa on Monday. A second win in Pittsburgh this year would be the first time since 2005-06 that the Sabres will have won two consecutive regular-season road games in the Steel City. It would also be just the fifth time in franchise history the Sabres have won two or more consecutive games in Pittsburgh.
Tonight’s game also wraps up Buffalo’s ninth and final set of back-to-back games this season. Following last night’s 2-1 loss to Winnipeg at First Niagara Center, the Sabres dropped to 4-3-2 in the first game. Entering tonight’s game they are just 2-5-1 in the second of back-to-back games. Buffalo’s point breakdown in previous back-to-back sets is as follows: four points (2), three points (1), two points (1), one point (2) and zero points (2).