Struggling Sabres prepare for back-to-back vs. Penguins
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Wins have been hard enough to come by for the Buffalo Sabres as of late.
Things won’t get any easier this weekend with a series of back-to-back games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The first part of that home-and-home series will take place in Buffalo on Friday night before heading to Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
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The Sabres (6-15-4) have only one win in their last 10 games (1-7-2), which came in a 3-1 victory over Edmonton on Nov. 24. Since then, Buffalo has been shut out in back-to-back games — a 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday and a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
The loss to the Lightning wasn’t a particularly bad one by recent standards for the Sabres. Tampa Bay’s goals each came on long shots from the point by defensemen, while the Sabres were unable to light the lamp on the other end.
“It’s a funny game when you go through difficult times,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “You’re playing the top team in the East and you’re coming away 0-0. The game is going sort of the way you want it to go … I think the bottom line is we out-chanced a team, we outshot a team but I just don’t think we’re making it difficult enough on the other goaltender.”
“We’ve got to find a way to make it more difficult and we’ve got to get in the trenches and get a dirty goal. When’s the last time we got one of those? We’ve just got to simplify that part of our game.”
The Sabres received some fortunate news regarding top defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen briefly left the game against the Lightning because of injury but returned at the start of the third period and is not expected to miss any more time. Ristolainen recently returned to the lineup after missing nine games with an upper-body injury.
“He got a little stinger there but he was fine coming back,” Housley said. “He’s the one guy that did show emotion (against Tampa Bay) and coming back after that he’s moving in the right direction.”
The Penguins (13-10-3) are fighting their way back after a difficult stretch of games in November. Pittsburgh won only four of its first 11 games of the month (4-5-2), which included three separate losing streaks. But the Penguins have won two in a row heading into Friday’s game, which includes a 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay and a 5-4 overtime win over Philadelphia on Monday. Against the Flyers, Pittsburgh overcame a 3-1 deficit before winning in extra time.
“When you look at the way the game played out, in a lot of ways it was a microcosm of our season,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of the win over Philadelphia, according to the team’s website. “We had a pretty good first period, get a timely goal. Come out the second period, don’t play the right way and give away a ton of scoring chances. Come out in the third period, play Penguins identity.”
The Penguins will be without No. 1 goaltender Matt Murray after he suffered a lower-body injury against the Flyers. Murray is considered week-to-week. Tristan Jarry (2-0-2, .907 save percentage) is expected to start in Murray’s absence.