Before the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins participate in the first outdoor NHL game to be played in the United States, they'll face off in a more traditional setting on Saturday night.
The Sabres and the Penguins meet for the first time this season at Mellon Arena in the start of a home-and-home series.
On New Years Day, these teams will play again before about 73,000 people at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills. By comparison, Saturday night's contest is expected to draw around 17,000, but should extend the Penguins' club-record sellout streak to 33 games.
Pittsburgh and Buffalo split four meetings in 2006-07, with each team winning once at home and on the road.
The Sabres are looking to avoid their season high-tying third loss in a row. On Friday, Ales Kotalik scored his 12th goal early in the second period before he, Tim Connolly and Thomas Vanek were denied in the shootout by Martin Brodeur as Buffalo (19-15-2) fell 2-1 to New Jersey.
The loss was the Sabres' second straight following a six-game winning streak -- they've had three three-game slides this season, the last coming from Nov. 9-15.
"We sat on it a little bit in the third period, but still it's a defensive game we knew we'd be in. We thought we could get through it," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
Ryan Miller, who made 34 saves through overtime, is 2-1-1 with a 2.42 goals-against average in four career starts against Pittsburgh.
While Buffalo is trying to avoid another loss, the Penguins (19-16-2) are seeking their third straight victory. With an assist from Sidney Crosby, Sergei Gonchar scored on the only shot taken in overtime Thursday in a 4-3 win over Washington.
Gonchar had been on ice for all three Capitals goals while playing with new defensive partner Rob Scuderi. Mark Eaton, Gonchar's usual partner on the blue line, has a torn ACL.
"I had a couple of mistakes, and I didn't feel great about this one, but I scored a goal and I feel a lot better now," Gonchar said. "Sid made a great pass. When he started skating toward the net, both defensemen are paying attention to him and not even looking at me. I had a wide-open net."
Darryl Sydor and Colby Armstrong each had a goal and assist in the win. Crosby finished with two assists, giving him seven points during a four-game streak.
The reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner is averaging better than a point per game against the Sabres during his three-year career, totaling four goals and five assists in eight matchups.
With Crosby, though, Pittsburgh has yet to win in regulation at home over Buffalo, going 1-2-1 with the lone victory coming in a shootout.