*Paul Martin will miss tonight’s due to what is believed to be a knee injury. The extent of his injury is unknown. For those counting at home; Martin joins a long list of blueliners on the shelf; Kris Letang (concussion), Zbynek Michalek (recovering from concussion, IR), Robert Bortuzzo (concussion, IR), Ben Lovejoy (wrist, IR), Brian Strait (recovering from elbow injury, IR).
*2006 2nd round pick Carl Sneep will make his NHL debut, replacing Martin in the lineup. Sneep has been recalled in addition to forward Jason Williams. Sneep, the team’s 2nd round pick in 2006, has nine assists and a plus-6 rating in 27 games with WBS this season.
*Sidney Crosby has been placed on injured reserve and remains out indefinitely.
*Marc Andre Fleury gets the start in goal.
Fleury has to step up: The Penguins right now are unraveling, losing four of five games in the midst of a stretch where they’re getting hit hard with injuries on a nightly basis.
It’s a stretch where they need excellent goaltending to get by, and they are not getting it from Marc Andre Fleury or backup Brent Johnson.
A team unraveling like the Penguins need their goaltender to steal a game and they surely didn’t get it last night from Brent Johnson who continues to show sides of being on the downside of his career at age 34.
A dominant game in goal is needed tonight from Fleury who is eyeing his 200th career win against a Buffalo team that is also in a back-to-back situation.
Fleury’s play has been shaky of late and that performance where he takes over a game just hasn’t been there of late.
The Penguins blueline tonight is likely to feature Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland, Simon Despres, Alexandre Picard and Carl Sneep.
Struggles vs Top-10: The Penguins have lost 11 of their last 21 games and despite the injuries, what’s been alarming has been their struggles against the top teams in the NHL, most notably their struggles to score goals against those respective teams. Since October 20th, Pittsburgh is 0-6 against the current top-10 teams in the NHL and 3-6 overall this season with all three wins coming in the Penguins first eight games of the year.
1. Minnesota Wild (20-8-4, 44 pts)
2. Chicago Blackhawks (20-8-4, 44 pts)
3. Philadelphia Flyers (20-7-3, 43 pts)
4. Boston Bruins (20-9-1, 41 pts)
5. Florida Panthers (17-9-6, 40 pts)
6. St. Louis Blues (18-9-3, 39 pts)
7. Detroit Red Wings (19-10-1, 39 pts)
8. New York Rangers (17-8-4, 38 pts)
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (17-11-4, 38 pts)
10. Vancouver Canucks (18-11-2, 38 pts)
Pittsburgh in the midst of their 0-6 run against the current top-10, have failed to score 2 goals or more in five of six games against those respective teams, that included losses against Florida (3-2), St. Louis (3-2), New York (4-3), Philadelphia (3-2), Boston (3-1), and Detroit (4-1).
Odd handling of Michalek: The Penguins handling of players with concussions always seems to be odd and Zbynek Michalek is no different. Michalek who was on track to return last night, confirmed to reporters following Friday’s morning skate that he was suffering some symptoms in the past few days, citing headaches. Yet, he was permitted to participate in the morning skate and in fact wasn’t ruled out following the skate, despite Michalek and the team confirming he was dealing with some symptoms again.