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Sabres vs Penguins preview: The Stanley Cup champions come to town

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Can the Sabres end the losing streak at six games against the champs

Game #18

Buffalo Sabres (5-8-4) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (11-4-2)

Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG-B, Root | Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation’s Lightning Blog: PensBurgh

Three Questions

1. Will backup Anders Nilsson keep out a high-powered Pens offense?

Nilsson has been impressive in his four starts so far, with stats of 1-1-2 with a GAA of 1.96 and a .942 save percentage. Pittsburgh though has won 15 straight games against Buffalo with Sidney Crosby in the lineup, back to  early 2010. Crosby has 30 points in those games (7G, 23A), with 49 points in 31 career games against the blue and gold. Evgeni Malkin has 39 points (13G, 26A) in 31 games against Buffalo.

2. Can the Sabres get an AHL 1-2 scoring punch?

Cal O'Reilly (fondly known as COR in these parts) and Cole Schneider are first and second in the entire AHL in scoring, but can they translate that success to desperately-needed goals for the Sabres. COR has 3 goals and 15 assists while WNY-native Schneider has 7 goals and 10 assists. Nicholas Baptiste and Evan Rodrigues have been sent back to the Amerks to make way for the pair.

3. Will the Sabres rejigged lineup make a difference by scoring more than one goal tonight?

Dan Bylsma is desperately searching for that silver bullet that will allow his team to score more than once. The pressure is starting to tell on everyone, especially the players as they fan on open net chances and are holding sticks too tight.

Johan Larsson wil center the first line to draw the plum assignment of facing off against the Crosby or Malkin-led top lines. The power play top unit has added Taylor Fedun to free up Rasmus Ristolainen from having to carry the puck up the ice.

Projected BUF Lines

Evander Kane - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
82 Marcus Foligno - 23 Sam Reinhart - 12 Brian Gionta
19 - Cal O'Reilly - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 26 Matt Moulson
48 William Carrier - 27 Derek Grant - 10 Cole Schneider

Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe - 6 Cody Franson
41 Justin Falk - 38 Taylor Fedun

Goal: 31 Anders Nilsson