Pluses, minuses for Penguins-Sabres |

NHL Network and ESPN analyst Kevin Weekes will offer his pluses and minuses for big games each week throughout the season.

We have a matchup of teams heading in opposite directions when the Pittsburgh Penguins (4-4-2) visit the Buffalo Sabres (6-3-0) at KeyBank Center on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TNT, ATTSN-PT, SN NOW).

The Penguins have lost five straight (0-4-1) following a 6-5 overtime defeat to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday; the Sabres have won two straight and five of seven.

Here’s my breakdown of the game.


Pluses: Centers Sidney Crosby (12 points; five goals, seven assists) and Evgeni Malkin (10 points; five goals, five assists) continue to lead the way in their 17th season as teammates. They did get forward Jake Guentzel back after he missed four games with an upper-body injury prior to a 3-1 loss at the Seattle Kraken on Saturday; he has seven points (four goals, three assists) in six games. Pittsburgh is going through a rough patch but it has one of the best, and in my mind, underrated coaches in the NHL in Mike Sullivan. There’s a reason the Penguins have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs 16 straight seasons.

Minuses: They started 4-0-1 but have cooled down since, being outcored 24-11 during their five-game skid. Pittsburgh held a three-goal lead in the second period Tuesday and couldn’t hold on. Special teams have been a problem; The Penguins rank 28th in the NHL on the penalty kill (70.6 percent) and 21st on the power play (20.5 percent). They were also without defenseman Kris Letang on Tuesday because of an illness.

Video: BOS@PIT: Malkin knots it up 2-2 in the 2nd


Pluses: Their strong start has been fueled by forward Tage Thompson and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, each with a team-leading 12 points (six goals, six assists) in nine games. Thompson had six points (three goals, three assists) in an 8-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday and Dahlin tied a Buffalo record with a five-game goal streak to open the season. Forward Alex Tuch looks really comfortable and is one of four Sabres with six goals, along with Thompson, Dahlin and forward Victor Olofsson.

Some of the veterans have really helped, including forward Kyle Okposo, who was named captain prior to the season, and goalie Craig Anderson, the oldest player in the League at 41. Anderson opted to play in his 20th NHL season instead of retiring, and is 3-0-0 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.

Minuses: Let’s see how they do in this next stretch, with five of their next six games against the Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights and Boston Bruins. The Sabres have not made the playoffs since 2011; it would be nice to see them enjoy some sustained success and remain competitive this season. Remember, they started last season 5-1-1 before they lost five straight and never recovered. The Sabres have not made the playoffs since 2011.

Video: Tage Thompson off to a hot start for the Sabres



1. Can Crosby and Malkin each keep his hot start going?

2. Will Thompson continue his early-season success?

3. Penguins penalty kill vs. Sabres power play

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