For better or worse, the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins are going to see a lot of each other this weekend.
Here are Five Things to Know as the Sabres host Pittsburgh on Friday in KeyBank Center.
1. Back to back
The teams are playing their 11th home-and-home series in history. After Friday's game, they'll head to the airport for Saturday night's contest in Pittsburgh.
During the previous 10 meetings on back-to-back nights, the Sabres are 7-1-2 in the home games and 3-3-4 in the road games.
"This is going to be a great challenge for us," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "They make plays in tight, through sticks. You have to expect the unexpected from this team.
"Obviously, we can't turn the puck over in the neutral zone and feed their transition. They're deadly off the rush, but even in the defensive zone we've got to be more aggressive with stick-on-puck detail because if you give them time they're going to take advantage of it, especially around the net. Just when you think there's not going to be a puck coming to the back side, somebody finds a soft spot on the back side of the goaltender. We've got to be aware of that.
"We just have to have urgency in our game in the D-zone."
This is the 162nd home-and-home series in Buffalo's history.
2. Zach's back
Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian will make his season debut. He suffered a lower-body injury (believed to be his groin) during the final preseason game, then suffered a setback. He's missed the opening 25 games as Buffalo has started 6-15-4.
"He's a spark plug," said likely defense partner Nathan Beaulieu. "You just feel his energy when he comes in the dressing room. He's always happy.
"It will be good for us to have him. It will help our back end out a lot."
For the first time, the Sabres should have their top six defensemen: Bogosian, Beaulieu, Rasmus Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, Jake McCabe and Victor Antipin.
"Anytime you lose one of your top four defensemen it's going to be tough, especially over a long haul," Housley said. "It's hard to replace those guys. I think the guys that came in did a really good job and got an opportunity, but to have him back he's a powerful skater. He brings a lot of good energy in our locker room. He's upbeat and has a great attitude.
"Yeah, we missed that."
Defenseman Matt Tennyson cleared waivers Friday and has been assigned to the Rochester Americans.
3. No goals
The Sabres have been shut out in back-to-back games, losing to Montreal, 3-0, and Tampa Bay, 2-0. The Sabres totaled 70 shots during the games.
"We'd love to get the first goal," Housley said. "Our start's going to be important. I'd like to see our team establish a forecheck early so we could get some momentum and build something off that.
"We have to continue to pound pucks. We have to have a shot mentality and get everything to the net, and hopefully we'll get a dirty one or a greasy one or maybe it hits a shin pad."
4. Going streaking
The Penguins have waddled over the Sabres on a regular basis. Pittsburgh is on a 13-game point streak against Buffalo, going 12-0-1. The Penguins overcame 3-1 and 4-3 deficits at home Nov. 14 to earn a 5-4 overtime victory.
"We've got to lock those situations down," Housley said. "We know they're going to give us a push. At that time, we've got to really settle down and face that adversity and just do your job defensively."
5. Sid's the Man
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby will one day enter the Hockey Hall of Fame, as the Sabres know all too well. Crosby has points in 25 of his last 27 games against Buffalo, producing 13 goals, 31 assists and 44 points.
In 35 career games against Buffalo, Crosby has 17 goals, 36 assists and 53 points.
The Penguins are expected to get back another Sabres tormentor. Center Evgeni Malkin should return after missing four games with an upper-body injury.
Malkin has 14 goals and 43 points in 34 games versus the Sabres.
"They don't stop," Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons said of the Penguins. "That's something we can definitely learn. They go all 60 minutes out, and you can't take a break during games. They'll come back and bite you."