After playing in Detroit Monday night and grabbing a 2-1 win their final game in Joe Louis Arena, the Buffalo Sabres did not have a morning skate Tuesday before hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins in KeyBank Center.
Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma will meet with the media around 4:30 in advance of the 7 p.m. game. In the meantime, here's a five things to set the stage for the last meeting of the season between the Sabres and the Penguins.
1. Buffalo's special teams make a difference. The Sabres went 0 for 4 on the power play in three games in California but in Detroit on Monday were 2 for 2 in a 2-1 win over the Red Wings. The penalty kill was equally important, going 4 for 4.
The Sabres rank first in the NHL with a 24.0 percent success rate on the power play. Buffalo last finished a season ranked among the league's top five power plays in 2005-06 (third at 21.2 percent) and led the NHL only once (1991-92, 22.5 percent). The Sabres current power-play percentage would rank as fourth-best in franchise history and the best since the team converted at 24.4 percent in the 1979-80 season.
2. Jack Eichel continues to be Jack Eichel. Since returning to the lineup after missing the first 21 games with an ankle injury, Eichel is tied for eighth in scoring in the NHL with 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists). He leads the league with 207 shots on goal since his Nov. 29 return. In his last 31 games, Eichel has 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) with 10 multi-point games in that stretch. The Sabres are 12-2-0 this season, 21-5-0 all-time, when Eichel notches at least two points.
3. The Penguins are coming in hot. Pittsburgh is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games. The Penguins come to Buffalo after a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday which featured a Sidney Crosby hat trick and a 21-save shut out by Marc-Andre Fleury. Crosby has points in 23 of his last 25 games against the Sabres (11 goals, 30 assists). The Penguins’ magic number to clinch a team-record-tying 11th-straight playoff berth is two. A win tonight would secure that berth.
4. Pittsburgh is playing through injuries. Evgeni Malkin will miss a third consecutive game for the Penguins as he is expected to miss Tuesday's game. Malkin has been out with an upper-body injury since blocking a shot in Calgary on March 13. The Penguins have lost 208 man-games to injury, but continue to play at a high level. It's particularly evident in the way players are producing when they return from an injury.
"It’s a number of things," Penguins' coach Mike Sullivan said in an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I think our medical staff does a real good job and our strength and conditioning staff does a good job preparing these guys to get back in the lineup. I give the players themselves a lot of credit for putting the work in and the commitment level that it takes to be ready when they go back in the lineup.
"I think sometimes they give us a burst of energy and some enthusiasm because they've been away from the game a little bit. They bring a fresh set of legs and energy to their game when they come back in."
5. The Sabres are looking for a series win. The teams split their first two games with the Sabres winning in a shoot out, 2-1, in KeyBank Center on Nov. 19. March 5 in Pittsburgh was a disaster for the Sabres, who took a 3-0 first-period lead before crumbling in a 4-3 loss. Should the Sabre win Tuesday, it would give Buffalo its first series win against Pittsburgh since the Sabres went 2-1-0 against the Pens in 2012-13.