Two surging teams clash Saturday night when the Buffalo Sabres visit the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Buffalo will be playing on successive nights after posting a 3-2 home win against the Minnesota Wild on Friday.
The Sabres are 4-1-1 in their past six games, although they didn’t feel as though they were overly dominant in the latest contest. JJ Peterka gave Buffalo a 3-1 lead early in the third, but Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek scored more than halfway through the period, and the scramble was on.
“We needed to find a way to win … especially in the third where our determination was there,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “In the end, it was a hell of a gut-check for our guys, and they pushed through.”
Winger Matt Savoie, the ninth overall pick in the 2022 draft, made his NHL debut Friday for the Sabres. He had no points and no shots while playing just 3:55 in the tight game.
“He’s earned this through a lot of hard work,” Granato said of giving Savoie a chance in the NHL.
The Sabres could be healthier than in recent games come Saturday, as well.
Winger Alex Tuch, who missed the Friday game because of an upper-body injury, has at least a chance to return against Pittsburgh. Defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, who has missed three games because of a lower-body injury, also might be back to face the Penguins.
Sabres forward Dylan Cozens, who sat out two games after getting injured in a fight, returned Friday.
Buffalo figures to go with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in goal after Devon Levi played Friday, making 33 saves in the victory.
The Penguins are coming off a sweep of a three-game swing through California, something that gave them a sizeable boost — along with their first three-game winning streak of the season to get them back to .500.
“It’s obviously a great road trip for us,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think it’s something we can build on moving forward.”
The three games proved to the Penguins that they can win in different manners. There was a 10-2 blowout of the lowly San Jose Sharks, a 2-0 shutout of the Anaheim Ducks in a tightly played game, and finally a hard-fought, 4-3 overtime win against a tough Los Angeles Kings squad on Thursday night.
Pittsburgh winger Bryan Rust, who had an overtime goal against the Kings waved off because of an offside call, then doubled down and scored the winner that stood. He said the result “is going to give us a little bit of juice.”
The entire run through California has the team feeling good.
“We knew we had to have a good trip,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. “We started off the right way. We got a gutsy one in Anaheim. And … we found a way (in Los Angeles).”
The one blemish was an injury to No. 1 goaltender Tristan Jarry, who got hit in the head and, on the same play, took a puck to the face when his mask got dislodged during the Anaheim game.
He was relieved by Magnus Hellberg, and the two goalies ended up with a combined shutout.
Hellberg played against the Kings, but Pittsburgh got good news when Jarry was cleared of a possible concussion and simply had to deal with swelling that closed his right eye.
Jarry might be able to return against Buffalo.
–Field Level Media
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