Feb 18, 2012, 10:09 PM EDT
Happy Hockey Day in America! Be sure to check out PHT throughout the day as we bring you features and previews of all the events, including a nine-hour NHL block of programming across NBC and NBC Sports Network.
Pity the Buffalo sports fan – so optimistic, then so disappointed.
The Bills start out 5-2, lose eight of their next nine, and finish 6-10.
The Sabres add millions upon millions to the payroll, and entering Sunday’s home game versus Pittsburgh (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) have approximately the same odds of making the NHL playoffs as, well, the Bills do of making the NHL playoffs.
Happy Hockey Day in America, Buffalo!
The Sabres enter Sunday’s game coming off their fourth straight defeat, 4-3 in a shootout to Montreal on Friday at the First Niagara Center. The loss dropped Buffalo into a tie for last place in the Eastern Conference, leaving coach Lindy Ruff to state the obvious.
“Obviously, I’m very disappointed, embarrassed,” Ruff said. “We’ve dealt with a lot, but to be where we’re at is a big disappointment.”
The Penguins have dealt with a lot this season as well – specifically the absence of captain Sidney Crosby (concussion) for all but eight games, plus the extended absences due to injury of forward Jordan Staal and defenseman Kris Letang.
However, unlike Buffalo, Pittsburgh will almost certainly be making the playoffs.
The Penguins earned a big win over in-state rival Philadelphia on Saturday, defeating the Flyers 6-4. It was an odd affair, highlighted by a pair of shorthanded goals scored less than two minutes apart — Jordan Staal scored 4-on-5, Matt Cooke scored 3-on-5 — with the guy that put Pittsburgh shorthanded, Pascal Dupuis, realizing how big a victory it was.
“That’s huge,” Dupuis said. “[The Flyers] were ahead of us in the standings, and you want to catch teams, especially down the stretch like that. It was a big win for us.”
The Penguins will look for a second consecutive win Sunday against a Buffalo team they’ve enjoyed success against this season. Pittsburgh embarrassed Buffalo the last time out by an 8-3 score, highlighted by a five-point effort from Evgeni Malkin, who also notched a hat-trick. That outing was especially tough for both Sabres netminders — Ryan Miller allowed five goals on 15 shots and backup Jhonas Enroth didn’t fare much better, allowing three goals on 11.
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