After a brief hiatus, the National Hockey League is returning to Hockey Valley.
While most preseason games won’t feature even a handful of household names, the previous two matchups have provided plenty of memorable moments.
Pegula Ice Arena has been blessed with dramatic endings in the prior two NHL preseason contests. In 2016, Jason Zucker scored the winner on the power play with just 4.6 seconds to play as the Minnesota Wild defeated the Sabres 2-1.
The following year, Jack Eichel scored the overtime winner 25 seconds into the extra frame as the Sabres topped the Penguins 4-3.
Scouting the Matchup
Though the Penguins have just one playoff series win since winning back-to-back championships, they remain a perennial favorite to win the Stanley Cup, with good reason.
Sidney Crosby is coming off another 100-point season and has shown no signs of slowing down. Though Evgeni Malkin missed 14 games last year, he finished the season with 72 points and remains one of the most dominant players when healthy.
General Manager Jim Rutherford made the difficult, but perhaps necessary, decision to trade Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes, but Alex Galchenyuk will provide a different dynamic and has already acquainted himself with the team.
Newcomer Alex Galchenyuk came to Pittsburgh with two sticks. Evgeni Malkin tried one. He liked it. Galchenyuk now has one stick. Welcome to the team #Pens -SK— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) September 10, 2019
There will be extra motivation for the Penguins to prove they are still one of the NHL’s top teams after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the New York Islanders.
While the Penguins enter the season looking to remain at the top, the Sabres enter the 2019-20 season trying to climb out of the basement they’ve been stuck in for the better part of a decade.
The Sabres have missed the playoffs every year since 2010-11 and have finished with a .500 or better record just twice in that span.
The seemingly endless rebuild may finally progress this season. Eichel has established himself as one of the top centers in the league and will continue to grow as a leader in his second season as captain.
Rasmus Dahlin was a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy as top rookie and showed promise as an 18-year-old defenseman. He should take another step toward becoming an elite defenseman.
With former Penguins Assistant General Manager Jason Botterill at the helm, the Sabres will hope to mimic the Penguins’ ascension among the NHL’s elite.