Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

March 29, 2012

Visit from Crosby, Penguins promises to challenge Sabres

BUFFALO — Give it a shot. Try drawing up a better late-season NHL matchup. The Sabres’ tilt against the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins tonight could make for a wildly entertaining three hours inside the First Niagara Center.

This one promises to be action-packed and fun, folks.

The scorching Sabres, having climbed into eighth place Tuesday, are roaring toward another unlikely playoff appearance. They’ve won five straight games and seven of the last nine, piling up goals while stymieing the opposition.

It took about 70 games, but they’re performing like the dynamic club many anointed them during the offseason.

Meanwhile, the Penguins, owners of the league’s slickest offense, already have 100 points thanks to a recent 14-1-1 run.

Superstar Sidney Crosby, who sat for 10 months following a scary concussion, hasn’t missed a beat since returning from a “soft tissue” problem March 15. Tonight will be his first appearance here since Dec. 11, 2010 and only his 18th game this season.

With 47 goals and 100 points, Evgeni Malkin is the NHL’s most lethal threat and the frontrunner to earn the Hart Trophy for MVP.

And then there’s James Neal, who quietly has 37 goals and 78 points.

“It’s going to be an extremely fun game,” said Sabres defenseman Mike Weber, a Pittsburgh native who will replace Christian Ehrhoff tonight (knee) following a four-game absence. “There’s been a lot of them lately, so everything’s extremely important. It’s really playoff hockey right now. Teams are ramped up and playing extremely solid. We got to keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”

Sabres center Tyler Ennis added: “It’s going to be a good test for us. We’ve done a good job to get into this spot. We got to keep pushing. We can’t take our foot off the pedal.”

The Sabres haven’t taken their foot off the pedal much in the past nine weeks, going an incredible 19-5-5 since January 24. They have points in nine straight (7-0-2).

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