Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) -- I know, some of you are in a panic over Thomas Vanek being pointless in three games. Before that, he had 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 11 games. Going into Saturday’s games, Vanek still leads Patrick Kane and Sidney Crosby by two in the overall NHL point race.
When the Penguins come in Sunday afternoon, Crosby will have six goals and 15 assists, Evgeni Malkin will have three goals and 14 assists while James Neal will have 11 goals and three assists.
At 10-5, Pittsburgh’s.667 winning percentage is 6th in the NHL. Buffalo’s .433 is 24th. The Pens are 6th in goals scoring and 7th in goals against.
The Sabres have cut down the chances and the shots against, but they're still a league worst giving up 33.7 shots per game which is six more than Pittsburgh.
Getting back to Vanek, I wondered if he was fighting an injury since to me he looks like he’s been laboring lately. Both he and Lindy Ruff said no. Ruff did say, “He didn’t go well the last couple. I still think he made a great play to Pominville early in the game that I think hit the crossbar and he had the empty net opportunity. Sometimes it’s one or two games that you get a little bit out of sync, but I think you’ll see him right back on track again come tomorrow.” From Vanek’s point of view he said, “I’m feeling good. I think early on, our first shift, Poms and I had a 2-on-1 and he just missed it there. Playing against Chara is always a tough task, he doesn’t give you much. At the same time, I thought defensively we didn’t give up much as a line. The three of us had a good run, I think we were practicing well, figuring things out and we’ll be back on the score sheet.”
Hodgson did score last game, but he has just that one goal in six games. In that time he had just three points. Pominville has not had a point in five games after picking up 14 points in 10. He has one goal in eight games.
The good news is while this line is slumping, the team is 3-2 so that means some other players are getting on the score sheet. Vanek said, “Right and that’s what you need. We talked about that, other guys stepping up, I mean Staff has been playing well and got rewarded finally, but I’ll just talk for my line, we know we’ve got more, teams are playing us tighter so we just have to figure out a different way.”
Vanek does not show well against Pittsburgh scoring just nine goals and six assists in 26 games.
For Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury has played five out of six games including the one Friday in Winnipeg. In 18 games vs Buffalo he’s 11-4-2 with a 2.69 goals against and .905 save percentage. His backup is now Tomas Vokoun. In 22 games against Buffalo he’s 8-10-3 with a 2.66 goals against and .915 save percentage. Crosby feasts on the Sabres with 29 points in 21 games. Malkin has 28 points in 21 games vs Buffalo.
Andrej Sekera is still day to day with a charlie horse and did not skate on Saturday. Ruff kept the team on the ice for about 35 minutes.
Join Pat Malacaro Sunday for the pregame when he’ll be joined by Lindy Ruff, Thomas Vanek and Alex Sulzer.