Penguins look to keep Sabres down

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have a revamped look on defense after two trades in the past week.

Ron Hainsey plays his fourth game with the Penguins and Mark Streit his second when the club hosts Buffalo in an early evening game Sunday. The veteran defensemen were used as a pairing Friday, and Streit scored the winning goal in a 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay.

While general manager Jim Rutherford had said for some time he ideally wanted to add a defenseman or two, the moves were at least partially necessitated by injuries.

Olli Maatta (hand) and Trevor Daley (knee) already were out on a longer-term basis, although they could be back before or at least for the playoffs. Saturday, coach Mike Sullivan somewhat cryptically disclosed that top defenseman Kris Letang's status is a bit murky.

Letang, who has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury, had been described as day-to-day but apparently has regressed.

"It's a bit more complicated," Sullivan said after Pittsburgh practiced without Letang. "I wouldn't say that he's day to day at this point, but we're hoping that it's nothing long term."

So the Penguins (39-16-8) press on, locked in a tight race among the top four spots in the Metropolitan Division race while adjusting on the fly to the new look on the blue line.

"A lot of it is communication," said Brian Dumoulin, Letang's defense partner most of the season and now paired with Justin Schultz.

The Penguins look to avoid a trap game against Buffalo (27-26-12), which is clawing to get a wild-card spot in the East. The Sabres missed a chance to leapfrog Tampa Bay by losing to the Lightning 2-1 in a shootout Saturday at home.

It was their fifth loss in six games (1-3-2) and they sit five points behind the New York Islanders, who occupy the second wild-card spot, with four clubs between Buffalo and the Islanders.

"They're right on the bubble for a wild-card spot, so they're going to be desperate," Pittsburgh winger Patric Hornqvist said. "We have to match their urgency."

Like the Penguins, the Sabres are dealing with injuries. Leading scorer Kyle Okposo will miss his second straight game and is out "week to week," according to coach Dan Bylsma, because of a rib injury.

"It's a big loss," Bylsma said. "He's obviously a top-line guy and on our power play, our leading point-getter. ... For the next little bit here, we're going to have to deal with it."

Buffalo also lost defenseman Dmitry Kulikov during Saturday's game to an unspecified injury. It appears unlikely he will play in Pittsburgh.