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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, February 5th (All times Eastern)

Pittsburgh Penguins (39-15-2) at Buffalo Sabres (15-32-8), 7:30 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - With just two games to go before the Olympic break, the Pittsburgh Penguins look to become just the second team to reach 40 victories on Wednesday night as they visit the Buffalo Sabres.

Pittsburgh is leading the Eastern Conference with 80 points, five more than the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins. That total also is just five back of the 40-13-5 Anaheim Ducks for the best record in the NHL.

The Penguins, owners of a 15-point edge over the New York Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division, have won three of four and 10 of their last 14 games. That includes a 2-1 victory over the visiting Ottawa Senators on Monday.

James Neal scored for the first time in nine games, putting home the rebound of a Robert Bortuzzo shot 1:55 into overtime for his 18th tally of the campaign.

Pittsburgh outshot Ottawa 48-25 and got 24 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury.

"We stuck with the game plan and kept getting pucks to the net. (Neal) made a great play in overtime for the win," said Pens forward Brian Gibbons, who notched power-play goal in the first period.

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang missed his third straight game with an undisclosed illness and did not travel to Buffalo, while forward Taylor Pyatt is expected to miss the next two games with a lower-body injury suffered against Ottawa.

Pittsburgh will host the New York Rangers on Friday in its final game before the Olympic break.

Buffalo plays the first of two games on back-to-back nights before it breaks for the Olympics. The Sabres will visit the Senators following this contest.

The Sabres hope to have halted a seven-game slide at home before heading to Ottawa, a skid that was extended with Monday's 3-2 setback to the Edmonton Oilers.

Jhonas Enroth made 25 saves, but allowed Matt Hendricks' short-handed goal in the third period that proved to be the difference despite the Sabres notching a season-high 44 shots in the game.

Steve Ott scored on the power play and Drew Stafford notched a short-handed tally with 56 seconds left in the first period to put Buffalo ahead 2-1, but the Sabres lost for the ninth time in 11 games overall.

Stafford scored in his return after missing the previous four games with an upper-body injury, wristing a shot top shelf for his fourth goal and sixth point in his past five games played.

"I thought Drew, the way he shot that puck, that's what we want to see," said Buffalo interim coach Ted Nolan said. "He's a big power forward and he's starting to get his confidence back."

The Sabres, last in the NHL with 38 points, lost defenseman Tyler Myers to a lower-body injury and he is day-to-day, though he has not been ruled out for tonight.

Wednesday marks the third and final meeting of the season between these clubs and lone clash in Buffalo. The Penguins have outscored the Sabres by a 7-1 margin in taking the first two tests at home, including a 3-0 shutout victory on Jan. 27.

Fleury stopped 24 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, while Sabres No. 1 netminder Ryan Miller made 31 saves.

Fleury is 14-5-2 with a 2.46 goals against average and two shutouts in his career versus the Sabres, while Miller has gone 7-12-3 with a 3.21 GAA when facing the Pens.

Pittsburgh has won 11 of the past 15 meetings overall and four of the last five in Buffalo.

02/05 10:39:20 ET