Schedule favors Stanley Cup champion Pens
BUFFALO, N.Y. — There is no proof that the NHL schedule was designed to benefit the Stanley Cup champions, but the Penguins have been playing advantageous hands the past few weeks.
A game Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena marked the fourth of eight previous contests in which a rested Penguins squad faced an opponent that played the previous night.
In fact, according to FSN Pittsburgh, seven of the Penguins' past 12 games have come against opponents that either played the previous night or traveled a great distance the day before. The Penguins were 5-0-1 in those contests.
"It's just the nature of this year's schedule," coach Dan Bylsma said.
The Penguins opened November with eight of 12 games on the road, confirming captain Sidney Crosby's stated belief that "it always eventually gets back to even."
Perhaps, but the Penguins will not have to leave Pittsburgh for three of the 11 remaining times they are scheduled to play on consecutive nights.
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A preview of a possible showdown between Olympic goalies was a casualty of the Sabres' schedule, as Ryan Miller did not start against the Penguins. Buffalo played for the third time in four nights and Miller had started the previous two contests.
Former Penguins goalie Patrick Lalime was in net for the Sabres last night.
Miller is having his finest season (first in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts; second in wins). He is the favorite to serve as Team USA's No. 1 goalie at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (second in the NHL with 20 wins) will likely earn a spot on Team Canada's roster, presumably as the backup to expected starter Martin Brodeur.
The Penguins and Sabers will play twice before the mid-February Olympic break.
Forward Max Talbot played against the Sabres after missing two games as a healthy scratch. Forward Eric Godard was scratched after appearing in two previous games, both against the physical Philadelphia Flyers.
Talbot scored a goal and recorded three points in 12 games after missing 21 games to open the season while recovering from offseason surgery on his left shoulder.
Around the boards
The Penguins' holiday party, canceled last Sunday because of an ice storm, will be held today. ... A three-game homestand opens Monday against the New Jersey Devils, against whom the Penguins are 0-0-2 with both losses coming at Mellon Arena.