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Sabres Look to Build on Success in Western Canada

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Vancouver Canucks Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Game 64

Buffalo Sabres (22-33-8) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (39-16-9)

Puck Drop: 7:30 PM | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: TNT

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Penguins Blog: Pensburgh

Know Your Opponent

Pittsburgh Penguins Record: 39-16-9 | 87 PTS

Division Ranking: 2nd in Metropolitan Division

PP: 16th (20.3%)

PK: 2nd (86.2%)

What to Watch

1. Special Kind of Deadly

The Penguins are one of the best teams in the NHL when it comes to the special teams’ units. Their penalty kill is 2nd in the league and neutralizes many opportunities opponents get. Buffalo tends to struggle with more aggressive penalty kills, so they will need to be focused on puck support and quick movement to counteract the Penguins’ killers. Pittsburgh might have a mid-ranked powerplay, but anytime you can roll out Crosby-Malkin-Letang on the ice, you can expect some high danger chances. Not taking penalties is always a key to winning, but against Pittsburgh, it’s a necessity.

2. Dominance of Dahlin

If there was any doubt before, Sunday’s game against Vancouver proved that Rasmus Dahlin has arrived. After a rough start to the season, Dahlin has improved in every aspect of his game. He’s always been good at moving the puck but has shown elite vision and breakout ability in recent games. More impressively, he’s added a physical element to his game we haven’t seen before. This has allowed him to be more effective at causing turnovers and jump starting the offensive transition by slowing or outright preventing opponents from offensive zone possession. In a year designed to develop Buffalo’s young players, the emergence of Dahlin is an excellent sign for future Sabres success.

3. Revamped 3rd Line

One key to the Penguins’ cup wins in 2016 and 2017 was their 3rd line. The combination of Haglin-Bonino-Kessel feasted on easier matchups as teams tried to stop the Crosby and Malkin lines. Pittsburgh might have recaptured that concept with the new line of Rakell-Carter-Kapanen. 37-year-old Jeff Carter is quietly having a solid season with 34 points in 58 games. Rickard Rakell had a quiet two shot night in his Penguins debut Tuesday night but is a former 2-time 30 goal scorer and on pace for 25 goals this year. Kasperi Kapanen may not be the point producer he was drafted to be, but rounds out the trio with speed, skill, and puck possession prowess. On paper, this looks like the 2nd coming of the “HBK” line. If they find some chemistry, watch for the “RCK” line to be the difference down the stretch and in the playoffs for Pittsburgh.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Skinner - Thompson - Tuch

Krebs - Cozens - Hinostroza

Asplund – Mittelstadt – Olofsson

Girgensons - Eakin – Okposo

Defense

Dahlin - Jokiharju

Miller - Pysyk

Samuelsson - Bryson

Starter: Anderson

Pittsburgh Penguins

Forwards

Guentzel - Crosby - Rodrigues

Heinen – Malkin– Rust

Rakell - Carter - Kapanen

Boyle - Blueger - Zohorna

Defense

Dumoulin – Letang

Matheson – Marino

Pettersson - Ruhwedel

Starter: DeSmith