Scouts Buzz: Penguins to have close eye on Sabres this month?

The Pittsburgh Penguins in their quest to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions have one Achilles heel, the Olli Maatta – Trevor Daley pairing.

And it’s more Olli Maatta than anything.

Daley while not a good player in his own end, gives the Penguins more with his ability to skate where he’s a superior player in joining the rush, has a better first pass off the breakout and a stronger escape ability due to his skating ability. As Daley showed in last Tuesday night’s win vs the Predators, he still has a goal scorers type shot for a defenseman from the point after scoring 16 goals in 2014-2015 for the Stars.

Maatta meanwhile continues to show major physical limitations with his lack of skating ability, struggles to defend the net-front, and he doesn’t deal with pressure well against tenacious forechecking teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets which was the case this past Friday night. The tape was also not good in previous meetings vs Bruins and Blues who have a group of big power forwards.

The trap Maatta is also falling into is poor decision making with his reads, which is so key to his success as a stay-at-home defenseman.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan [hide] might be a disciple of John Tortorella but one thing he rarely does is be critical of his players through the public.

Sullivan praised the pairing on Saturday morning prior to the Blues game. Against the Blues the pairing went on to have a CF% under 30%.

“I think they’re a good pair,” Sullivan said. “Trevor’s a mobile guy that can join the rush and is really active with his mobility and his skating. Olli is a real smart player. More of a stay-at-home guy that defends pretty well and can make an outlet pass. We like the pairs that we have right now.”

The Penguins are locked into their top-2 pairs, Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang, Ian Cole – Justin Schultz.

22 Days until the trade deadline, the belief is the Penguins don’t see the Maatta-Daley as a major problem that they feel they have to make an upgrade but there’s still a couple things at play where a move could be made.

For one, the Penguins have made Maatta available to a few identified teams in an attempt to land a long-term forward, league sources confirm.

Two, the team has not called off their scouts to stop tracking potential defenseman on the trade market.

One team the Penguins are planning to keep tabs on this month is the Buffalo Sabres, sources say.

Pittsburgh had very strong interest in Cody Franson at the 2015 deadline but the player with specific interest is said to be defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, a left shot defenseman who plays top-2 pairing minutes and is an outstanding skater.

The Penguins organization has been high on the former Panther Kulikov for a long-time. Kulikov was drafted by Penguins director of scouting Randy Sexton when Sexton was with the Panthers organization.

Multiple teams in the East, including the Canadiens have such a close eye on Kulikov this month because a back injury has hindered Kulikov for much of the season and his inconsistent play and sometimes poor fit in Dan Bylsma’s system while in a contract year has raised some flags with teams.

The Sabres asking price is expected to be a second round pick but some talk he could go for a third rounder.[/hide]