-Greetings on a brisk spring day. It's a brilliantly sunny but in the mid-30s. Spring is coming. It's just slowly coming along.
-The Penguins will try to extend their winning streak to 16 games tonight. Only one other team, the 1992-93 Penguins, has won more consecutive games, 17. We had to be that guy, but should this current streak come with an asterisk? The Penguins won a shootout, 5-4, in Toronto, March 9. That was the fourth game of the streak. Until the 2005-06 season, the NHL did not have a shootout. There could have been plenty of teams with equally as impressive streaks before 2005-06 if they had the benefit of a shootout. In fact, the Penguins' streak in 1992-93 season ended with a 6-6 tie in New Jersey in the regular season finale. If they had a shootout available to them, is that streak at 18?
-That said, even if you devalue the Penguins' current streak with that shootout win in Toronto, they have won 11 consecutive games in regulation or overtime. That's pretty impressive.
-Tyler Kennedy will get a go as the team's No. 1 center tonight in the absence of Sidney Crosby. Kennedy gets a lot of heat for a variety of reasons, legit or otherwise, but he's worth a shot there in the short term. Dustin Jeffrey had plenty of chances to establish himself on the team's second line in the absence of Evgeni Malkin earlier this season and did little with the opportunity. Could Kennedy, coming off a strong game Saturday, be any worse?
-One thing to keep in mind with Dan Bylsma, he changes his lines all the time. Kennedy's debut as the No. 1 center could last a shift or it could last well beyond tonight's game.
-We'll see how strong Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis have really been without Crosby at center.
-The Penguins appear to be re-uniting the Douglas Murray-Matt Niskanen defensive pairing which looked pretty sharp last week against the Jets. The injuries to Paul Martin and Kris Letang forced a shuffling of all the pairings Saturday against the Islanders. Murray-Niskanen is very intriguing as a pairing. Murray is definitely a stay-at-home type of defender while Niskanen has the versatility to play any style. With Murray, he could be permitted to take some chances.
-After having the blue line gutted over the past few days in the former of trades involving Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr, The Sabres appear to be a team resigned to its fate. There will be a few call-ups from the AHL who will be motivated to show they belong in the NHL, but it doesn't appear like there's much motivation as a group with this team.
-Adding to the Sabres woes is that leading scorer Thomas Vanek will miss another game due to an "upper-body" injury.
-Tomas Vokoun returns to the Penguins' net coming off three consecutive shutouts he has been a part of. His success is two-fold. First, he's just tuned in. He's coming up with some big saves when the team needs them. He has faced third period breakaways in each of the past two games and he's turned them away with ease each time. Second, he's getting some incredible defensive efforts in front of him. His success is very much a team effort.
-It looks like James Neal will maneuver to the left wing to aid Jarome Iginla's adjustment to the team and system. Given Neal's success on the right side the past two seasons, this is a pretty selfless move. Neal's game took off in part due to his move from the left to the right wing last season. It says a lot about him that he's willing to make this adjustment.
-Jaromir Jagr was traded to the Bruins today. Given the Penguins nixing the proposed Iginla-to-Boston deal, this just adds another wrinkled to Jagr's unique history with the Penguins. Jagr will give the Bruins a big boost to their ailing power play but can he thrive in the realm of Claude Julien, a coach who was once fired by the Devils in part for being too defensive-minded.
-Speaking of Jagr and one-time Penguins missing teeth:
(Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)
-There's a sign of progress in developing the Fifth Avenue corridor. A new restaurant is being built across from the main entrance of the building:
-Jarome Iginla makes his Icetime cover debut:
-If you ever wondered where NBC positions its cameras, here you go:
-Fans entering the barn:
-We always run into a Craig Adams fan:
-Fellow Harvard alumni Dominic Moore:
-A few Sabres fans. Ryan Miller:
-That new guy is still pretty popular:
-If you're a fan of back-up goaltenders, Brent Johnson and Ty Conklin:
-Jersey of the Night: In honor of Evgeni Malkin tying him for most games played in franchise history by a Russian/Soviet Union-born player, Aleksey Morozov:
-The Penguins' starters are Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, Chris Kunit, Douglas Murray, Matt Niskanen and Tomas Vokoun.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Sidney Crosby and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Sabres' starters are Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht, Patrick Kaleta, Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers and Ryan Miller.
-Their scratches are Ville Leino, John Scott and Thomas Vanek.
-Jeff Jimerson is all business:
19:40: Douglas Murray shows one of the reasons he's here right away. As a puck bounces out of play, Kaleta tries to give a little business to Kunitz. Kunitz ignores Kaleta but Murray does and gives him a little bump. As that's going on, a fan in the 104 section appeared to get hit with the puck. Medical personnel appear to be on the scene.
16:51: Niskanen corrals a loose puck at the left point and whacks a slapper which is blocked wide on the near side by Nathan Gerbe's stick.
16:49: Malkin controls the rebound behind the cage and deals a pass to Iginla positioned in the slot. Iginla jabs a little shot on net. Miller's right leg kicks it out.
16:37: Iginla and Malkin look like they're clicking. From the right half wall, Iginla taps a feed to the slot for Malkin. Malkin one-touches it wide to the left of the cage.
15:00: Off a feed from Kunitz, Kennedy screams up the left wing and directs a little wrister on net. Miller kicks it away.
14:19: Kaleta chips and chases a puck up the right wing. Murray goes for the puck and juuuuust as Kaleta arrives, BLAM! He pastes Kaleta into the boards and allows Niskanen to skate away with it. That's a nice, subtle bit of chemistry there.
13:49: Kaleta wants some more. He races Murray for a loose puck on the right wing boards of the Penguins' zone. He wins the race but loses the battle as Murray thumps him to the ice. Murray plays the puck out of danger.
12:45: Drew Stafford is nabbed for slashing Tanner Glass. That's two minutes. Malkin, Neal, Iginla, Niskanen and Kunitz take the ice. During a television time out, a video tribute is played in honor of Orpik appearing in his 622nd career game, most in franchise history among defensemen. He passed Ron Stackhouse (621). His teammates and the fans offer a standing ovation. Orpik offers a few nods in appreciation before relenting and offering a standing salute. Part of the video included "The Shift:"
11:21: A one-timer by Malkin from the left circle is turned away by Miller.
10:45: The Stafford minor is killed without much of a threat from the Penguins.
10:21: The Penguins go back on the power play. Cranberry native Mike Weber hit Brenden Morrow from behind into the end boards behind the Buffalo net. That's two minutes for boarding. He also gets an additional two minutes for unsportmanlike conduct, presumably for mouthing off. The Penguins will have four minutes of power-play time. Malkin, Neal, Kunitz, Iginla and Niskanen take the ice.
9:36: Well that's an inglorious end to the shutout sequence. Iginla tees up a one-timer from the left point but his stick breaks. Kevin Porter pushes the puck up the ice to kill some time but loses it to Niskanen in the Penguins' zone. As Iginla heads to the bench to get a new stick, Niskanen does't seem to realize Iginla has left for the bench and taps a blinde backhanded pass right back to Porter. Porter takes the puck, uses Niskanen as a screen and snaps off a wrister from the left circle by the glove hand of Vokoun. Ouch. That's breaks the teams' franchise record shutout sequence of 218:48 and Vokoun's franchise record of 173:06. The goal is unassisted. Sabres 1-0.
7;11: Sutter sneaks in off the right wing towards the crease and chips a little feed to Morrow on the backdoor. The puck bounces a bit and Morrow can't get wood on it.
6:33: Welcome to Pitsburgh Jarome Iginla. Malkin house into a turnover in the Sabres' zone and taps a pass to Kunitz down low to Kunitz in the right wing corner. Kunitz takes the pass, sneaks towarsd the crease and waits for Tyler Myers to slide down for a block attempt. Kunitz then sneaks a pass across the front of the blue paint to Iginal who swats a wobbly shot through the legs of Miller. It's Iginla's first goal with the Penguins. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 1, Sabres 1.
4:24: Steve Ott has a chance in the slot blocked by Orpik.
3:50: During a television time out, former Penguins/Sabres forward/antagonist Matthew Barnaby is shown on the video board along with a video tribute:
2:58: Malkin chips a puck from the right wing to the slot. Glass is there battling in front but can't get a stick on it.
2:36: Glass heads down the runway.
1:50: The Sabres didn't just show up for the heck of it tonight. Off a stretch pass from Adam Pardy, Jason Pominville gains the offenive zone on the left wing and leaves a drop pass for Ott in the left circle. Ott steps up and hammers a one-timer to the far side by Vokoun's blocker which hits twine. What a shot. That's points in six consecutive games for Ott against the Penguins. Pominville and Pardy get assists. Sabres 2-1.
0:27: Malkin sneks up the left wing by a check and tucks a pass to Neal above the left circle. Neal drops the hammer on a one-timer which Miller eats up.
0:00: End of period. Sabres 2, Penguins 1.
-That was a pretty lousy period for the Penguins. They were sloppy and didn't seem to play with a great deal of immediacy. It almost seems like they're taking the Sabres too lightly.
-That said, the Penguins had the bulk of offensive zone time possession. They had better scoring chances but couldn't really convert many.
-The Iginla-Malkin-Neal line is looking quite dangerous tonight.
-Suffice it to say, Dupuis-Kennedy-Kunitz isn't quite as scary as Dupuis-Crosby-Kunitz.
-The power play looked really disorganized. We're all for experimentation, especially when some of your better power-play players are injured, but this Iginla experiment has had a rough debut.
-Ryan Miller was pretty sharp. He had to be.
-The Penguins lead in faceoffs, 11-8.
-Iginla leads the game with five.
-Stafford leads the Sabres with two.
-Niskanen leads the game with 8:48 of ice time.
-Ehrhoff leads the Sabres with 8:38.
-The Sabres lead in faceoffs, 15-9 (63 percent).
-Ott is 6 for 9 (67 percent).
-Jeffrey is 2 for 2 (100 percent).
-Pardy leads the game with two blocked shots.
18:19: Andrej Sekera chops a slapper form the right point which gets blocked in front.
17:39: Huh? What was that? From the slot, xx snaps off a wrister. Vokoun kicks it out. Hodgson beats Orpik to the rebound, scoots behind the net from the right side and tucks it in on the left side of the net with a forehand wraparound. Vokoun was badly out of position after Hodgson recovered the puck. Pominville and Mark Pysuk get assists. Sabres 3-1.
16:32: This is just plain bizarre. Kevin Porter pushes the puck up the left wing and snaps off a shot/pass towards the slot. It hits off Engelland's right skate and takes a direct path to the net sneaking under the legs of a surprised Vokoun. That was a really fluky bounce. The Penguins pull Vokoun in place of Fleury. It's hard to blame Vokoun for much of this. He hasn't been sharp but the entire team has been off. Brian Flynn and Andrej Sekera get assists. Sabres 4-1.
14:33: Off pass from Orpik, Malkin pushes the puck up the right, makes a fancy move by Ehrhoff and snaps off a wrister wide to the far side.
13:53: Off a feed from Kunitz from the left wing, Dupuis taps a shot on net from the slot. Miller eats it up.
13:23: Hodgson hammers a one-timer from the slot which hits Orpik in the right hand or wrist. Orpik is in some discomfort after that.
11:38: After a turnover by Matt Cooke around his own net, Fleury covers the puck. Kaleta skates around the crease to be a pest. Simon Despres and Deryk engelland mix it up with him. A scrum ensues. Engelland ends up getting a roughing minor. This just keeps getting worse for the Penguins. Engelland can't take that penalty. The Penguins have had three power plays to none thus far for the Sabres. Officials will try to even it up. Orpik, Murray, Adams and Dupuis take the ice.
10:41: Shorthanded, Dupuis races the puck up the left wing, fakes a slapper and whips a wrister on net from a deep angle. Miller turns it aside.
9:47: Taking a pass on the right half wall, Staffor snaps off a wrister which appears to hit off the near post.
9:38: Another penalty for the Penguins. Foligno controls the puck behind the net and his hit from the side by Despres and crashes awkwardly into the end boards. Officials call Despres for boarding. Replay show him hitting Foligno's right arm and Foligno falling badly. A questionable call to be kind. Jeffrey, Adams, Murray and Orpik take the ice.
9:22: Pominville snaps off a wrister from the left half wall wide to the far side.
8:43: Ehrhoff takes a pass on the right wing and strikes a slapper to the far side. Fleury's blocker punches it away.
7:52: Off a give and go, Stafford whacks a shot from in tight which Fleury kicks out.
7:39: Stafford hammers a slapper from above the left circle. Fleury kicks it out.
7:06: Niskanen jumps on a loose puck in the slot and rips a wrister which hits a stick and sails WAY high into the stands over the netting.
5:58: A wrister by Kennedy from above the left circle hits a stick and slides in on net. Miller eats it up.
5:28: Yet another penalty for the Penguins. Brenden Morrow get shis first penalty as a Penguin. Battling for position in front of the Buffalo net, he cross checks Ehrhoff to the ice. Myers responds with his own cross check. Morrow is the only one penalized. Officials have evened up the power plays now. Sutter, Adams, Murray and Orpik take the ice.
4:45: Myers chops a slapper from the left point. Fleury snags it.
3:44: Ehrhoff lifts a wirster from the left point which is blocked partially by Murray.
3:28: Morrow's penalty is killed. The Penguins didn't allow much to the Jets there.
2:04: Kaleta smacks Iginla in front of the Buffalo bench. Iginla braces for the hit and fights him off.
0:22: A writer by Dupus on a sharp ankle from the left wing sails over the net.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Sabres 1.
-That was an even worse period for the Penguins. They were simply undisciplined that period. They took a few unnecessary penalties, which were as a result of some questionable calls admittedly, and really limited the time they could go on the offensive zone attack.
-If there's anything to base any hopes on, is the penalty kill. The Penguins' penalty kill was outstanding. That said, the Penguins didn't seem to generate any momentum off the three kills they had that period.
-Due in part to the penalties, the Penguins simply couldn't get anything going with the Neal-Malkin-Iginla line. Their ice time was limited.
-Dupuis-Kennedy-Kunitz and Cooke-Sutter-Morrow have generated zilch tonight.
-Fleury has been sharp in his return. He seems like one of the few Penguins players displaying any confidence tonight.
-The Sabres lead in shots, 20-14.
-Iginla and Stafford each lead the game with five shots.
-Myers leads the game with 16:39 of ice time.
-Orpik leads the Penguins with 15:17.
-The Sabres lead in faceoffs, 21-17 (55 percent).
-Ott is 9 for 13 (69 percent).
-Jeffrey is 5 for 5 (100 percent).
-Murray leads the game with four blocked shots.
-Pardy, Kaleta and Myers each lead the Sabres with two blocked shots.
19:38: Murray tries to take a pass in his own left faceoff circle and his smacks to the ice by Murray. Nice hit.
16:45: Another penalty for the Penguins. Sekera lifts the puck from the right wing boards to the neutral zone. Neal sort challenges Sekera then just blants Kaleta into the boards away from the puck. That's two minutes for interference. That's a terribly selfish penalty. Jeffrey, Adams, Murray and Orpik take the ice.
15:56: Ehrhoff chops a slapper from the right point. Fleury fights it off.
14:45: The Neal minor is killed. Not much going on there for the Penguins.
13:51: Neal settles a loose puck in the slot and whips lifts a wrister from the left circle which hits a stick and sails out of play.
13:48: And yet another penalty for the Penguins. Kunitz is nabbed for tripping Myers. Jeffrey, Murray, Orpik and Adams take the ice.
13:29: Ennis tries to sneak along the goal line on the right wing but is smacked into the near post by Murray and lose the puck.
12:55: Hodgson controls the puck in the left wing corner and is drilled into the boards by Orpik. He still able to distribute a pass which is eventually moved on to Gerbe on a deep angle on the right wing. Gerbe drills a one-timer which Fleury keeps out.
11:46: Kunitz returns to play. The Penguins' penalty kill hasn't been a problem tonight.
11:22: Iginla tries to jam in a forehand wraparound on the left side of the cage. Miller holds it out.
11:18: Ott and Neal mix it up a bit in the left circle of the Buffalo zone. No calls.
11:10: A wrister from the left wing by Weber is denied by Fleury.
10:08: Orpk is in deep on the left wing and is shoved down by Ennis. Orpik didn't exactly provide a ton of resistance on that. No penalties.
9:11: Jeffrey chugs up the left wing and snaps off a wrister which is blocked out of play by Myers' stick. Attendance is announced as 18,642. It is the team's 274th consecutive sell-out.
8:09: Jeffrey is getting a chance with Kunitz and Dupuis. Dupuis chops a slapper from the right circle on net. Miller fights it off. Jeffrey is right there for the rebound and pokes it wide on the far side.
6:59: A wrister by Sekera from the left point is blocked by Cooke.
6:24: Adams knocks over Ehrhoff in the left wing corne of the Buffalo zone.
5:19: A wrister by Neal from the left wing is fought off by Miller
4:52: On a delayed penalty, Iginla smacks a one-timer from the slot which hops up and goes wide of the cage.
4:50: Hodgson is called for hooking Neal. Neal, Kunitz, Malkin Niskanen and Iginla take the ice. This is do or die here for the Penguins if they have a hope of coming back.
3:16: Taking a pass down low, Neal tries to lift a wrister from the right of the net but Miller hugs the near post and fights it off.
3:02: Malkin forces a pass form the right circle to Iginla in the left circle. Myers knocks it out of mid-air and whacks it down ice for a clear.
2:49: As the Hodgson minor is killed, Porter takes a pass ont he left wing, races into the offenisve zone an lifts a wrister on net. Fleury snags it.
2:14: Pardy dodges a check from Kennedy and lifts a wrister from the left circle. Fleury says no.
1:59: During a stoppage, Orpik and Porter mix it up in front of the Penguins' net. Engelland jumps but nothing comes of it.
1:01: Kaleta tries to jam in a shot from the left side of the cage. Fleury holds it out.
0:05: The remaining fans offer a standing ovation for the Penguins.
0:00: End of game and end of streak. Sabres 4, Penguins 1.
-Hockey seasons, even lockout-shortened, compacted ones are long, grueling endeavors. Maintaining your focus and intensity from the first game to the 82nd game (or the 48th) is a difficult task. An April game against the a bad Sabres team deconstructing its roster just isn't the same as a showdown for Eastern Conference supremacy against the big, bad Bruins just isn't the same. That's what happened tonight and that's why the Penguins lost their first game in over a month.
-The Penguins were just sloppy most of this game. They didn't seem to have the same team-wide focus as they displayed most of March. They were way too casual. Maybe it was the injury to Sidney Crosby. Maybe it was the lack of a stellar opponent. There are a variety of reasons. What can't be denied was that this was a poor effort in so many facets for the Penguins.
-First and foremost, they weren't all that secure with the puck in any zone. They had some sloppy turnovers. A hallmark of the Penguins' winning streak was puck possession. THey kept the puck away from the opposition throughout most of March. Tonight, Buffalo appeared to dominate the puck.
-Another key aspect of this game were faceoffs. The Penguins won four out of 20 offensive zone faceoffs tonight. Four. Evgeni Malkin alone was 0 for 10 in offensive draws. Yikes. You can't possess the puck if you don't win it on faceoffs to begin with.
-If Ray Shero has any other moves up his sleeve before tomorrow's 3 p.m. deadline, a stronger fourth-line center who can win faceoffs would be nice.
-That said, it's hard to imagine Joe Vitale not helping some of those faceoff numbers.
-This really shows how valuable Sidney Crosby is in this particular aspect of the game for the Penguins.
-Don't dismiss what the Sabres did tonight. They have nothing to play for. Players are leaving town every day via trades it seems. More could be leaving. They played for pride and did a wonderful job of taking away the center ice where the Penguins generate a lot of rushes into the offensive zone. The Sabres had a roster full of spare parts and came away with a gutsy win.
-The Tyler Kennedy as No. 1 center experiment lasted until the third period when Dan Bylsma subbed in Dustin Jeffrey. Jeffrey had one of the Penguins' better individual games as put a few shots on net and was the only players in black to win most of his faceoff draws.
-Discipline was a killer for the Penguins. They took a ton of mentally weak penalties. They tried to engage in some individual battles, particularly with antagonist Patrick Kaleta and as a result, spent 10 minutes of the game fighting off the Buffalo power play.
-What is it about players who wear No. 36 getting under the Penguins' skin. Tonight it was Kaleta. Usually it's Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo.
-The Penguins' penalty kill was the one bright spot here. The Penguins did an effective job of limiting the Sabres' quality of chances and kept Buffalo to the perimeter for the most part with the man advantage. On five power plays, Buffalo only had nine shots.
-When it did have possession, the Penguins' power play just did not look very cohesive. There was a sense of discomfort with the new alignment.
-Tomas Vokoun, like the rest of his team, was not as sharp as he had been entering this game. He wasn't horrible, but he wasn't stealing goals the way he had been on some occasions and even seemed to be fighting the puck.
-Fleury was pretty sharp in his first game back from a neck injury. He was one of the few players on the Penguins who had some confidence and gave his team a reasonable chance to crawl back into the game.
-The Sabres led in shots, 29-20.
-Jarome Iginla led the game with six shots.
-Drew Stafford led the Sabres with five shots.
-Jochen Hecht was the only Sabres skaters who failed to record a shots. Meanwhile, the Penguins only got shots from six players (Iginla - 6, James Neal - 5, Pascal Dupuis - 3, Jeffrey - 2, Kennedy 2 and Evgeni Malkin - 2).
-Christian Ehrhoff led the game with 24:53 of ice time.
-Matt Niskanen led the Penguins with 22:56.
-The Sabres controlled overall faceoffs, 34-23 (60 percent).
-Steve Ott was 10 for 14 (71 percent).
-Jeffrey was 7 for 10 (70 percent).
-Douglas Murray led the game with four blocked shots.
-Tyler Myers led the Sabres with three.
-As stated before, the Penguins' franchise shutout streak was halted at 218:48 and Vokoun's individual franchise record was halted at 173:06. Very impressive.
-Orpik appeared in his 622nd career game and passed Ron Stackhouse (621) for fifth most overall in franchise history and most among defensemen.
-Iginla became the 458th player to score a regular season goal for the Penguins.
-The Penguins' #UndefEATON streak came to an end as they lost their first game with Mark Eaton in the lineup this season. The team is now 13-1-0 with him in the lineup.
-The team's penalty kill is now at 87.5 percent with Eaton in the lineup and 79.1 percent without him.
-Chris Kunitz (204 points) passed up Paul Gardner (203) for 36th most points in franchise history.