BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 17: Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a second period save against Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins 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: Penguins at Sabres

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

• Tonight’s matchup features the No. 1 team in the East against the conference’s basement dweller. Pittsburgh has gone 24-6-1 since Nov. 27 and has led the conference since taking over the top spot on Dec. 14. The Sabres, meanwhile, fell to 1-9-1 back on Oct. 23 and have brought up the rear in the standings ever since. Pittsburgh has more than double Buffalo’s point total (80-38).

• The game also pits the conference’s highest-scoring team (Penguins, 3.11 GPG) against the league’s lowest- scorers (Sabres, 1.84 GPG). Five Penguins have higher point totals that Buffalo’s leading scorer, Matt Moulson (33 points this season, 24 with Sabres).

• In spite of the low numbers, the Sabres’ output has been on an uptick recently. Buffalo has scored 3 or more goals 8 times over the last 11 games – something they’d done 10 times over their first 45 games. In this most recent 11-game stretch, C Cody Hodgson has scored 6 goals and D Christian Ehrhoff 9 points, while captain Steve Ott has 4 goals in his last 8 games.

• The Penguins lead the NHL in both power plays (24.9%) and penalty kill (87.7%). No team has finished a season atop the league in both categories since the 1984-85 Islanders.

• Sidney Crosby has registered at least 1 point in 16 consecutive games against the Sabres, the longest active streak for any player against an NHL team. Crosby has 9 goals and 17 assists during the streak; he also has points in all 13 career games he has played in Buffalo. (Elias Sports Bureau)

Player | Opponent | Streak

Sidney Crosby, PIT Sabres 16

Steven Stamkos, TB WPG/ATL 13

Patrick Kane, CHI Oilers 12

Joe Thornton, SJ Avalanche 12

• Crosby, however, has been held without a point in each of the last two games. It has been more than 4 years since the Pittsburgh captain went 3 straight games without a point, since he had a 5-game drought from Oct. 31-Nov. 10, 2009. Crosby hasn’t scored a goal in 5 games and shares the team lead (27) with Chris Kunitz.

• Buffalo’s Ryan Miller (.925 save %, T-6th in NHL) will have one final “audition” tonight before coach Dan Bylsma, who will run the American bench in Sochi beginning next week. Since Bylsma took over in Pittsburgh during the 2008-09 season, Miller is 4-5-0 with a 3.65 GAA and .883 save% against his Pens.

• James Neal’s overtime winner vs. Ottawa on Monday was his 18th goal and first in 9 games. Despite the dry spell, Neal remains among the league leaders in goals per game. (min. 20 games)

 Alex Ovechkin, Capitals 0.75

 Alex Steen, Blues 0.61

 Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs 0.52

 Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes 0.52

 James Neal, Penguins 0.51

 Joe Pavelski, Sharks 0.51

 • The last NHL games before the Olympic break will be played on Saturday, Feb. 8. The NHL’s Olympic roster freeze takes effect Friday and runs until Feb. 23, before the schedule resumes with Buffalo hosting Carolina on Feb. 25.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.