Sabres vs. Penguins Preview: The Return Of Letang
Kris Letang makes a surprise comeback as the Penguins attempt to sweep the Sabres.
The second half of the home-and-home series between the Penguins and Sabres tonight is all about roster arithmetic. And it involves some surprising addends too.
The Penguins are adding two central players back to the line-up, as late-breaking news came just after 5 PM that both Kris Letang and Ryan Poehling are available to play for the Penguins tonight. Each man is returning from injury or illness. Letang, specifically, is trying to come back after suffering his second stroke just 10 days ago. It's a stunning turnaround time for such an ailment.
In the opposing locker room, Buffalo is dealing with two significant roster subtractions. They will be without as forward Jeff Skinner who was suspended for three games for cross-checking Jake Guentzel late in Friday's game. Skinner's absence takes away a third of the Sabres' lethal first line centered by Tage Thompson. Buffalo will also be missing Henri Jokiharju who is out with a lower-body injury.
Two key additions for Pittsburgh and two subtractions for Buffalo is the right kind of math to add up in the Pens' favor as they try to sweep this back-to-back set against the Sabres tonight at PPG Paints Arena after taking the first game in overtime, 4-3.
This is the final meeting of these teams for the season and the winner takes the 2022-23 series as it's tied at a win each. So this is likely "so long" to the 24th place Sabes' until 2023-24.
Pens Game #28: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres
Date: December 10, 2022
Time: 7 PM (ET)
Place: Pittsburgh, PA
Venue: PPG Paints Arena
Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN, National- ESPN+
Social Media Hashtags #: #LetsGoPens #LetsGoSabres
Records- PIT: 15-8-4, BUF: 12-13-3
Last 10- PIT: 8-1-1, BUF: 5-3-2
Streaks- PIT: 4 Wins, BUF: 1 Loss
Standings- PIT: 10th, BUF: 24th
Points- PIT: 34, BUF: 26
Season Series- 1-1
Series Goals For- PIT: 10, BUF: 6
Team Stats Comparison
Projected starting goalies-
-CASEY DESMITH- #1
Bio Info: 6' 0", 181 lbs. DOB: 8/13/1991 (31). From: Rochester, NH.
Drafted: Undrafted; Experience: 5th Season.
Record: 3-5-1, 3.00 GAA, .908 SV%
Career vs. BUF: 3-2-2, 2.13 GAA, .931 SV%
-UKKO-PEKKA LUUKKONEN- #1
Bio Info: 6' 4", 220 lbs. DOB: 3/9/1999 (23). From: Espoo, Finland.
Drafted: 2017- Rd 2, Pk 54 (BUF). Experience: Rookie.
Record: 3-2-1, 4.15 GAA, .853 SV%
Career vs. PIT: Debut
The Pens have been dominant at home vs. the Sabres. They're 58-26-20 all-time on home ice when facing Buffalo and have won five of the last six games played between these teams in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins moved into the top ten in the league standings with last night's win. They now have 34 points.
Some roster changes are pending with these potential player returns. Chad Ruhwedel will likely be scratched from the line-up for Kris Letang's comeback. And up front, Danton Heinen is most probably the player scratched in favor of Ryan Poehling. As the fourth line of Poehling-Blueger-Archibald was producing prolifically went Poehling went down with his injury.
-Kris Letang (D): stroke, game-time decision.
-Ryan Poehling (F): upper-body, game-time decision.
The projected Penguins lines for Saturday, December 10, 2022, vs. the Buffalo Sabres:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Danton Heinen/Ryan Poehling - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin - Jeff Petry
Marcus Pettersson - Jan Rutta
P.O. Joseph - Chad Ruhwedel
PP1: Malkin, Crosby, Guentzel, Rakell, Petry
PP2: Carter, Rust, Zucker, Kapanen, Joseph
PK1: Blueger, McGinn, Petry, Pettersson
PK2: Carter/Rust, Archibald, Dumoulin, Rutta
Buffalo's rookie netminder, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will be debuting vs. the Penguins tonight. "UPL" is 3-2-1 on the year but his 4.15 goals-against average is the stat the Pens will look to exploit. As Pittsburgh is one of the strongest teams in goals per game in the league at 3.56 GF/GP and has already put up 10 goals in two games vs. the Sabres this season.
The Sabres will be missing two important forwards Vinnie Hinostroza and Henri Jokiharju due to injuries for this game. Both players perform well against the Penguins historically so their absence will definitely impact Buffalo's chances.
-Eric Comrie (G): IR, lower-body, week-to-week.
-Vinnie Hinostroza (F): IR, lower-body, day-to-day.
-Henri Jokiharju (F): lower-body, week-to-week.
-Ilya Lyubushkin (D): IR, lower-body, day-to-day.
For The Penguins: Jake Guentzel. Jake got under the Sabres skin last game for a reason, he remains one of the Pens' biggest on-ice threats. On Friday he lengthened his point streak to six games including three points in just the last two played. Guentzel will likely come into this second meeting with a small chip on his shoulder after the excitement of clashing with the Sabres at the end of the third period last night too.
For The Sabres: Tage Thompson. Thompson didn't net a goal in game one but he extended his point streak to six games and is still the most dangerous Sabre on ice even without linemate Jeff Skinner. He might even be looking to send a message on the scoreboard after the Penguins "took" Skinner from the line-up so Tage remains the one to watch for Buffalo for a second straight game.