BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 17: Alexander Sulzer #52 of the Buffalo Sabres and Tanner Glass #10 of the Pittsburgh Penguins reach for the puck on February 17, 2013 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Get your game notes: Sabres at Penguins

8 Comments

This evening on NBCSN, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the Buffalo Sabres starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— Pittsburgh, the Eastern Conference leader with 74 points, enters tonight’s game 14-1-0 in their last 15 home games. The Pens’ only home loss in that stretch came in a 5-1 defeat to Florida on Jan. 20. The Penguins have lost 5 times in their last 21 games (16-4-1), with all 5 losses to teams outside of playoff position (at DAL, vs. FLA, at EDM (OT), at NJ, at OTT). Buffalo has a league-low 35 points.

— The Penguins, 21-4-0 at CONSOL Energy Center, match Anaheim for the NHL’s most home wins. Buffalo’s 5 road wins (5-14-3) are the fewest in the league. The Pens have won 6 of the last 9 matchups in Pittsburgh over the Sabres and are 10-4-0 in the last 14 overall meetings.

— Pittsburgh is coming off a 3-0 loss at Dallas on Sat., the third time they’ve been shut out this season. Buffalo won at Columbus, 5-2, on Sat. but is 1-3-2 overall in their last 6 games and have not won consecutive road games played in back-to-back games all season.

— Sidney Crosby has registered at least 1 point in 15 consecutive games against the Sabres, the longest active streak for any player against an NHL team. He has 9 G – 15 A during his streak vs. Buffalo.

Player | Opponent | Streak

Sidney Crosby, PIT | BUF | 15

Steven Stamkos, TB | WPG/ATL |  13

Patrick Kane, CHI | EDM | 12

Joe Thornton, SJ | COL | 12

— Crosby (league-leading 72 pts, team-leading 27 goals) & Chris Kunitz (25 goals) have a combined 52 goals, one short of matching the highest scoring tandem in the NHL (ANA – Perry/Getzlaf – 53). Both scored in the Pens previous meeting vs. BUF this season (4-1 PIT home win on Oct. 5). Crosby leads all NHL players with 37 home points (12G-25A) and has 13G-20A in 23 career games vs. Buffalo. Kunitz has 7G-5A in 19 career games vs. the Sabres and 3G-4A in last 7 games against them.

— Matt Niskanen (+29 – 1st in NHL) & Kunitz (+25, t-2nd) lead PIT in +/- rating. The Pens have 11 players at +2 or above this season; Buffalo has 4 players at +1 as their highest rated players.

— Tonight, Evgeni Malkin will play in his 500th NHL game. He becomes just the 15th Penguin in team history to reach that milestone. Crosby (522 GP) was the 14th earlier this season. Malkin has points in 6 of his last 7 games vs. the Sabres (4G-7A) & at least 1 point in 11 of his last 12 home games (7G-13A).

— Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury leads the league in wins & home wins (28, 18). Buffalo’s Ryan Miller is 7-11-3 all-time against the Penguins, 1 of only 3 teams he has a losing record against, with a .888 save percentage (his lowest against any NHL team).

— The Penguins lead the NHL in both special teams categories (24.4% on PP, 87.3% on PK). The Sabres are 29th on the PP (13.9%) & 12th on PK (82.9%). Pittsburgh has been perfect on the penalty kill against the Sabres in eight straight home games (18-for-18 during span).

— Pittsburgh ranks 4th in the league in goals per game (3.15), while Buffalo averages the fewest (1.82).

Amid trade rumblings, Gionta wants to ‘continue the job’ in Buffalo

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 10:  Brian Gionta #12 of the Buffalo Sabres fires the puck into the zone during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 10, 2015 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus defeated Buffalo 4-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

There’s an interesting dynamic at play with Buffalo captain Brian Gionta.

Gionta, who turned 38 last week, is in the midst of a quality campaign. With 10 goals through 46 games, he’s flirting with 20 for the season — a mark he hasn’t hit since the ’10-11 campaign in Montreal.

He’s also on pace for 39 points, which would be his high since signing with the Sabres three years ago.

For a playoff team, this kind of production and veteran presence is invaluable. More to the point, a playoff team wouldn’t part with it.

But the Sabres are right on that playoff bubble — five points back of Boston for third in the Atlantic, and five back of Philly for the final wild card — and, should they fall out of contention, the Gionta conversation becomes quite different.

At that point, he’d be a pending UFA (last of a three-year, $12.75 million deal with a $4.25M cap hit) armed with a limited no-trade clause, as opposed to the full NTC he had in years one and two.

Gionta would also figure to be a fairly intriguing addition at the deadline. In addition to his experience and leadership qualities, he’s appeared in over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, winning it all with New Jersey in 2003.

He knows it might be time to move on. But he also knows he wants to stay.

“That’s out of your control,” Gionta said of trade talks, per the Buffalo News. “The only thing you can control is on the ice, and I’ve had it before throughout my career where your contract’s up.

“I want to continue what’s here. I want to continue the job I thought I’d be a part of.”

The Gionta situation in Buffalo will certainly be one to watch as we get closer to the Mar. 1 deadline.

Detroit loses Vanek, Larkin ahead of key tilt against B’s

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 15:  Dylan Larkin #71 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on while playing the Tampa Bay Lightning at Joe Louis Arena on November 15, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. Tampa Bay won the game 4-3. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

It’s been an injury-plagued campaign in the Motor City, and now that bug has carried over to two of the club’s top forwards.

Thomas Vanek — the team’s leading scorer this season, with 31 points — and speedy sophomore Dylan Larkin will both miss tomorrow’s crucial game in Boston with their respective injuries, per NHL.com.

Larkin, 20, is out for the next two games with an upper-body ailment suffered in Sunday’s 1-0 OT loss to the Rangers. Though he’s struggled in his second professional season — just 18 points in 47 games — he had shown signs of coming on lately.

In fact, Larkin starred in last week’s wild 6-5 comeback win against the Bruins, scoring his 12th goal of the year while recording his first multi-point effort since October.

As for Vanek, he also suffered an injury on Sunday — of the lower-body variety — that will temporarily derail what’s been a solid bounce-back campaign (Vanek is day-to-day, per GM Ken Holland).

The 33-year-old has shown well in Detroit after getting bought out by Minnesota last summer — as mentioned above, he’s tied with Henrik Zetterberg for the club lead in scoring and it’s fair to suggest he’s been Detroit’s best player this season, even though injuries have limited him to just 36 games played.

The Wings head into tomorrow’s action four points back of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, and four back of Philly for the final wild card spot. If they’re going to extend their historic playoff appearance streak, every game matters — yes, even ones now, in late January.

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks look to complete home-and-home sweep of Avalanche

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 21:  David Schlemko #5 and Kevin Labanc #62 of the San Jose Sharks celebrate after Schlemko scored the game-winning goal in overtime on Spencer Martin #30 of the Colorado Avalanche at SAP Center on January 21, 2017 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Colorado Avalanche host the San Jose Sharks at 9:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

Tonight’s game between the Avalanche and Sharks will be the second time they go head-to-head in three nights.

On Saturday, Colorado came back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, but they eventually fell in overtime, as Sharks defenseman David Schlemko scored the game-winner just 1:18 into the extra frame.

Despite the loss and the horrific record they own, Avs coach Jared Bednar has felt good about the way his team’s been playing of late.

“We are coming on,” Bednar said on Saturday, per the Denver Post. “It’s discouraging at times because you don’t get the results. It’s those one or two mistakes. You have to find a way to cure, to eliminate them as much as you possibly can, make sure you’re not making the same mistakes over and over. But we’re playing real good hockey against real good teams right now and we’re fighting and in all the games.”

When you’re 13-29-2 overall, you try to find small victories in every battle, and improved overall play during losses has to be considered a small win every time.

Over their last 11 games, the Avalanche have come away with just a single win (2-1 in OT over the Isles on Jan. 6). With the OT loss to the Sharks on Saturday night, Colorado has picked up three of a possible 22 points during that stretch of 11 games.

As you may have expected, scoring has been a huge issue for them. If we look back at their last 10 games, they’ve managed to score more than two goals just once, and that came in a 6-4 loss to Chicago on Jan. 17.

As for the Sharks, things couldn’t be going much better right now.

Since their 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 14, they’ve rattled off four straight wins over Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Colorado.

So yea, these two teams couldn’t be headed in more opposite directions. San Jose won as many games last week as the Avalanche have since Dec. 8.

Saturday’s game against the Avs was the Sharks’ fifth game in eight days and at times, they looked fatigued. Even though they ended up pulling out a win, they weren’t satisfied with their overall play.

“When we’re on our game, we’re making it tough with grind time and traffic at the net, some chances,” Joe Pavelski told CSN Bay Area on Saturday. “Tonight we didn’t have as many as we could have had. We’ll try to find a little bit more for next game.”

PHT Morning Skate: Matthew Tkachuk’s parents hate the way he chews on his mouthpiece

2 Comments

–After playing in over 1,400 NHL games and being a disciplined professional athlete, Teemu Selanne is finally able to enjoy his free time and his family. “The greatest thing is there is no schedule. Over 30 years with a certain schedule, and now I don’t have it. One thing also people don’t realize is how disciplined a life you have to live or you want to live when you play. When it comes to eating and resting, in many ways it’s a selfish life too if you have family,” said Selanne. (NHL.com)

–Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk does everything he can to get an edge over the competition. From taking plenty of vitamins to quirky pre-game routines, van Riemsdyk will stop at nothing to improve his game. “I think always growing up I was always really a freak,” said van Riemsdyk. “When you take care of things like that and you’re trying to find an edge in that way too, you feel better game in and game out and you’re able to play better game in and game out.” (Canadian Press)

–Enforcer Eric Boulton is the last player from the 1994 draft class with an NHL contract. His unlikely journey to the NHL included many stints in the minors, plenty of punches and even digesting raw potatoes. (The Hockey News)

J.T. Miller scored the overtime goal in Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. You can watch the highlights by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Even though his father, Keith, suffered a severe jaw injury during his NHL career, Flames rookie Matthew Tkachuk refuses to stop chewing on his mouthpiece, and it drives his parents crazy. “They’ve seen me do it for all these years, and I guess they try to tell me to stop, but it’s just a habit,” said Tkachuk. “I did it in junior, too. I remember my dad’s injury, but I don’t know if a mouth guard would have stopped him from losing teeth there. It was a pretty hard slap shot.” (Postmedia)

Mike Condon has done a lot of traveling over the last year. He was put on waivers by Montreal, he was traded from Pittsburgh to Ottawa, but now, he seems to have found a home with the Senators. Even though he’s playing well, Condon isn’t willing to look too far ahead. “It’s basically just about staying in the moment,” Condon told SI.com. “It’s not looking too far ahead. The past is in the past and the future, you have no control over. For me it’s about being in the moment and being where I am right now, it keeps things a lot simpler.” (Sports Illustrated)

–The creator of the “Peanuts” cartoon strips, Charles M. Schulz, was a big hockey fan, who owned his own arena in California. Sometimes, he also incorporated hockey in his classic cartoons. (BarDown)