Sabres host Penguins in final game of season

Main storyline: Saturday night is the final game of a dreadful 2014-15 season for the Buffalo Sabres (23-50-8). With last place locked up, and the guarantee of drafting either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, the Sabres host the Pittsburgh Penguins (42-27-12) who are fighting for their playoff lives.

Season series: Saturday’s finale is the third and final game between the Sabres and Penguins this season. In both previous matchups, the Penguins have outscored the Sabres 11-1. Both games came back in early November with Pittsburgh winning its first game 5-0, and then a week later defeated the Sabres 6-1 in Buffalo.

Where they stand: With Friday’s loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Sabres have officially clinched last place in the National Hockey League. Even with a win on Saturday, and an Arizona Coyotes loss, the Sabres would still finish last because of the tie breaker the Coyotes have with regulation / overtime wins. For the Penguins, the team sit in the final wild card spot but are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season, which was the rookie season of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. A win on Saturday over the Sabres will clinch the Penguins a playoff berth, but any loss could result in elimination from playoff contention.

Recent performance: The Sabres closed out its season on the road on Friday in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets got out to a quick 1-0 just 14-seconds into the first period thanks to Nick Foligno. Mikhail Grigorenko tied the game just 2:11 after the Jackets got ahead, but the Jackets got another goal heading into the first intermission. Sabres captain Brian Gionta tied the game 2-2 with 59-seconds left in the second period. In the third period, Cam Atkinson got the go-ahead goal with 9:25 left to go in the third period, and Boone Jenner added the empty net goal with 9.7 seconds left in the period to give the Jackets a 4-2 win. Pittsburgh only needed a win against the Islanders on Friday night on home-ice to clinch a playoff berth. The Islanders, however, played spoiler and dominated the Penguins throughout Pittsburgh home finale. After Rob Scuderi tied the game 1-1 heading into the third period, Islanders captain John Tavares got the Islanders ahead 2-1 just 2:46 into the final frame. Michael Grabner added an insurance goal with less than four minutes left to lift the Islanders past the Penguins.

Buffalo notes: The 2014-15 season was a season to forget to say the least for the Sabres. Compared to last season, the Sabres are just two points better than where the team finished 21-51-10 and 52 points. Last season, the Sabres set a league record for the fewest goals in a season with 153 goals. This season, the team has scored 161 goals, which may be an improvement, but is still a league low. Last season, the goaltending was better with the Sabres giving up less than three goals per game on average. This season, the Sabres are giving up 3.30 goal against per game on average, which is also a league low this season. Buffalo’s powerplay was at 14.1-percent last season, and has only gotten worse with a 13.4-percent total this season and is another league low. Same with the Sabres penalty kill, as the Sabres have a 75.1-percent penalty kill this season compared to 81.4-percent last year. And the final comparisons to make from last season to this season is shots for and shots against. Last season, the Sabres had an average of 26.3 shots on goal (league low), and then 34.3 shots against on average. This season, the Sabres are only averaging 24.1 shots on goal (league low), and 35.6 shots against on average (league low). The season results may be better compared to last season, but statistically the Sabres have been worse than last year. It appears that Andre Benoit will be out for the season finale with an upper-body injury, so Chad Ruhwedel will remain in Buffalo for Saturday’s game. It is unclear who will get the start in net, but Anders Lindback could be the likely starter for the final game.

Pittsburgh notes: The Penguins come into Buffalo, still looking to clinch a playoff berth. According to, the Penguins would “clinch if they beat Buffalo in any fashion”. If Pittsburgh gets one point against Buffalo, they can still clinch if either the Senators lose in regulation or if the Bruins fail to win in regulation or overtime/Bruins lose to the Lightning in “any fashion”.. 

Conclusion: Can the Sabres close out its season on a high note, or will the Penguins spoil the finale at home? Opening face-off is scheduled for 7pm, and the game can be seen on MSG Network.

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