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.