The last time the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Buffalo Sabres, they lost the game but picked up some confidence.
As the teams meet Friday in Pittsburgh, the Penguins look to get a little revenge for that 2-1 loss on Nov. 16 and keep their newfound winning run alive.
In that earlier game, Pittsburgh put together a strong and furious two-way attack in the third period, compiling a 20-3 shot advantage and getting its only goal.
Afterward, the Penguins talked about using that period as a template for how they want and need their game to look.
“When we play our game, we’re very hard to play against,” Pittsburgh center Jeff Carter said.
Pittsburgh won its next five games and is 10-2-1 in the 13 games since, including a current five-game winning streak. A sixth win in a row would be a season high.
Another element that has no doubt helped the Penguins since that night against Buffalo is team captain Sidney Crosby’s return to a dominant level of play.
Crosby, who missed the start of the season because of wrist surgery and then missed time because of a bout with COVID-19, was still rounding into form in the earlier game against Buffalo. He spent part of the second period skating on the fourth line, rather than with the top group.
Crosby assisted on Pittsburgh’s lone goal in that game and since has accumulated 16 points, 15 in the past nine games.
“He’s in a way different place,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I can see it every night, just his game coming.”
Crosby, who has four goals, said he would like to score more but allowed that “besides that, as far as generating chances and timing, I feel a lot more comfortable.”
In the first meeting, Sabres goaltender Dustin Tokarski was a huge factor, making 45 saves. He won’t have a chance to reprise that performance because he is in COVID-19 protocol.
Malcolm Subban is expected to start in net for the Sabres. He is back from a lower-body injury suffered Dec. 4 against Carolina — in the third period of his Buffalo debut after he was acquired from Chicago.
“We know he’s a quality person and a competitive guy,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We’re hopeful that this is the spot for him and he can earn it and establish his game at a new level for him.”
Buffalo is 2-4-1 in December, but 2-0-1 in its past three games after a 3-2 shootout win Thursday at Minnesota.
The Sabres will be without defenseman Robert Hagg, who is out after he sustained a lower-body injury earlier this week.
“We’re going to miss him,” Granato said. “He gives us a shot blocker. He has some grit.”
Defenseman Casey Fitzgerald, who was recalled Thursday but did not play in Minnesota, could make his NHL debut against Pittsburgh, Granato said.
–Field Level Media