PITTSBURGH (LGS) — The Buffalo Sabres have a game in hand over the New Jersey Devils and lead them by one point in the Eastern Conference standings. That game comes Tuesday in Pittsburgh as the Sabres travel to the Mellon Arena for a 7:30 p.m. showdown with the Penguins (VS-TV/WGR-AM).
The Sabres (44-19-5) are not making it easy on themselves. The team is stuck in a three-game losing streak, which they hope to break out of on this four-game road trip. But the league’s best offensive team isn’t going to let a little bump in the road bring them down.
“It’s not a big deal,” co-captain Daniel Briere said when asked if the losing streak was discouraging. “Everybody goes through a tough stretch. It’s not the first time this year. It’s nothing to panic about.”
But Buffalo has seen its cushioned lead in the Eastern Conference erode away to a single point.
“The cushion’s gone,” Jason Pominville said. “But it’s a challenge for us. It’s something we haven’t dealt with.”
One of the major problems Buffalo has been struggling with recently is its power play. The Sabres have not scored on the man-advantage in any of the games during their latest slide. What’s more, they have surrendered a shorthanded goal in each of the three games.
The other co-captain Chris Drury leads the team in power-play goals with 16 but hasn’t scored since he returned from his concussion last Wednesday night against Colorado. He does have goals in each of his last four games against Pittsburgh.
Briere scored his 80th point of the season when he scored on a tip-in against New Jersey Saturday night. Also scoring was Dainius Zubrus, acquired by Buffalo at the trade deadline, who scored his first goal with the team in the 3-2 loss.
Thomas Vanek, the team’s leading goal-scorer with 34, has not scored in his last four games. He has been wearing his frustration on his sleeve, slamming his stick into the boards and punching the glass after his missed opportunities.
“We’re just going to have to realize we’re not always going to be cute and pretty. We have to be ugly and we have to play defense,” said Ryan Miller, who has posted a 3.61 goals-against average in the last three games.
The Sabres have not lost four straight games all season long.
Winning Tuesday won’t be easy facing a Pittsburgh (37-21-10) team that features the NHL’s best offensive player in Sidney Crosby. Crosby leads the league in scoring, recording his 100th point Saturday in a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers.
He is the youngest player in NHL history to accrue 100 points in a season.
“It’s never something I think about,” Crosby said. “It’s nice, for sure, but there’s a lot of games left — important ones — and that’s where my mind has been.”
He has two goals and an assist in the two games against the Sabres this season.
The Penguins are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Atlantic Division. They trail the Devils by eight points.
Rookie sensation Evgeni Malkin scored a goal and had an assist the last time the two teams met, a 4-2 victory for Pittsburgh Jan. 5. Malkin was named the first star of the game.
The two teams will be back in Pittsburgh April 3 to finish the season series.
Fun Fact of the Game:
Over its history, Buffalo has not fared well in Pittsburgh. They were 19-36-18 there coming into this season. The Sabres did win both games in the Mellon Arena last season, though. And they are 3-1 in the Igloo during the playoffs.