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Ruff plots to blunt Pens assault on goalies

The Pittsburgh Penguins know how to embarrass opponents, especially goaltenders. They tortured two Saturday, going through Sergei Bobrovsky and Ilya Bryzgalov during a 6-4 victory in Philadelphia.

Of course, no one needs to tell the Sabres about Pittsburgh's firepower.

The Pens lit up the Buffalo goaltending duo of Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth during the teams' last meeting, an 8-3 setback for the Sabres on Dec. 17. Owner Terry Pegula mocked his team's goalies after watching Miller start, get pulled, return for an ineffective Enroth, then get pulled again in Pittsburgh.

Obviously, the Sabres are hoping for a better effort when the Pens visit First Niagara Center at 12:30 this afternoon.

"A couple goals went in that we didn't like, but obviously as a team then we just sort of became unraveled," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said Saturday. "It's just staying with it and knowing that we're going to have our hands full."

The Sabres' toughest chore figures to be slowing Evgeni Malkin. The Pittsburgh superstar has 17 goals and 27 points in his last 19 games, including an assist Saturday. He leads the league with 70 points, including 32 goals, in 51 games.

Malkin had three goals and five points during the big win against Buffalo. Ruff hopes the home-ice advantage of determining line matchups helps today.

"That will definitely help," Ruff said. "He's a tough man to handle. We're going to have to go with a little dual coverage, make sure that each guy has a little support with it, but he's really been on a run. I think getting that last change will give me the opportunity to set up what we need.

"I don't think you can totally take away all his chances, but we can definitely limit them."

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The Sabres' penalty-kill unit limps into the game on a three-outing slide. It went just 7 for 12 against New Jersey, Philadelphia and Montreal. That dismal 58.3 percent success rate was only one second from dropping to 50 percent. The Canadiens, who went 1 for 2, connected just as Thomas Vanek's penalty expired.

"As a group, we've got to do a better job on the PK," Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta said. "It's something we've got to take pride in. I hate getting scored on. I don't like that at all.

"We've got to learn and see what's going on here because we've got to pick it up."

Pittsburgh went 0 for 3 against the Flyers but are 6 for 19 (31.6 percent) in their last seven games.

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The Sabres' Tailgate Tent Party in the plaza of First Niagara Center will be kid-friendly this afternoon. The Sabres will provide face painting, hockey puck shooting practice, bubble hockey and trivia with prizes. The team's mascot, Sabretooth, will also make an appearance.

The tent opens at 10:30 a.m., and children 12-under will get in free. Tickets for adults are $10, plus $4.50 in convenience fees and surcharges, at Sabres.com and include one beverage.

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The Sabres have announced their final "Road Crew Tour Stop" will take place March 26 in Washington. Ruff, his coaching staff and Sabres broadcasters Rick Jeanneret, Harry Neale and Kevin Sylvester will meet with fans at Grand Central, located at 2447 18th St. NW.

The event will include food and drink specials, trivia, a Sabres Road Crew credential and lanyard. Tickets are available as a $10 donation to the Sabres' foundation on the team's website or by calling Lauren Yurko at 855-4468.

email: jvogl@buffnews.com