Penguins-Sabres Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup last season without

the benefit of home-ice advantage in two of their four series, and

their ability to win on the road hasn’t disappeared.

The Penguins embark on a four-game trip looking for their fifth

straight win and seventh in eight games away from home Tuesday

night against the Buffalo Sabres, their most recent road

victim.

Pittsburgh (26-12-1) closed out all four of its postseason

victories on the road last spring – twice overcoming 2-0 series

deficits to win a Game 7 – and was victorious in its first seven

games away from home this season.

Four losses by a combined 19-2 during an injury-plagued stretch

in November followed, but the Penguins are back to their solid form

with six wins in their past seven road contests.

Five of those have been by one-goal margins, including a 2-1 win

at Buffalo (23-11-4) on Dec. 19 on Kris Letang’s shootout goal.

That lifted Pittsburgh to 14-3-1 in one-goal games, but it

dropped a rare tight contest in the finale of a three-game

homestand Sunday against Toronto. Michael Rupp tied the score at 3

with 2:15 left in regulation, but Ian White’s goal less than a

minute later lifted the Maple Leafs to a 4-3 win.

“Our execution wasn’t there,” said Sidney Crosby, who snapped a

three-game drought without a goal. “We wanted to work hard and we

did work hard. Maybe we didn’t work as smart.”

The Penguins have won five of six at HSBC Arena, but they didn’t

have to face Ryan Miller earlier this month.

Miller – 21-8-3 with a 1.98 goals-against average – has not

fared well recently against Pittsburgh. The likely starter for the

US Olympic team is 2-2-1 with a 4.14 GAA in his last five starts

versus the Penguins.

“I watch the highlights every morning,” Penguins goaltender

Marc-Andre Fleury told the team’s official Web site. “… I think

everybody knows he has always been a great goalie. It’s no surprise

he is doing this well.”

Fleury is 3-0-1 with a 2.16 GAA in Buffalo, but with a trip to

division rival New Jersey looming Wednesday, coach Dan Bylsma

indicated Brent Johnson could start despite being 0-4-0 with a 7.73

GAA against the Sabres since the end of the 2004-05 lockout.

Buffalo backup Patrick Lalime was solid against his former club

when the Penguins last visited, and he was in goal Sunday against

St. Louis. Lalime made 32 stops and Tim Connolly and Mike Grier

each had two goals and an assist in a 5-3 victory.

“We didn’t play well (Saturday) night,” said Grier, referring

to a 3-2 overtime loss to Ottawa. “I think we all kind of felt

anxious coming into the game tonight and the guys battled. I think

it took us a while to find our legs, but we battled and hung in

there.”

Grier has tallied five of his 14 points over the last three

games.

Derek Roy, who leads the Sabres with 30 points, missed Sunday’s

game with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. Winger Drew

Stafford, who hasn’t scored a goal since Nov. 27, was a healthy

scratch, but is likely to be back Tuesday.

Despite the Penguins’ road success, they’re converting only 11.5

percent of the time with the man advantage. Buffalo, meanwhile, has

killed all but one of its opponents 29 power plays over its past 10

home contests.

The Sabres are 10-1-4 in one-goal games.