An illness to Marc-Andre Fleury has Jeff Zatkoff on alert again, but the Pittsburgh Penguins might be more concerned about what's happening at the other end of the ice.
With their starting goaltender unknown, the Penguins look for some offensive improvement in order to continue their dominance of the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
Fleury has been terrific of late, going 3-1-1 with a .942 save percentage over his last five games. He was unable to keep that strong stretch going Saturday, falling ill and pressing Zatkoff into an unexpected start. The backup made 16 saves in a 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay, despite Pittsburgh (29-19-8) holding a 39-20 shot advantage.
"That's my role," said Zatkoff, who is 2-6-1 with a 2.96 GAA over his last 10 games. "That's my job to be able to come in and give the team a chance and to give him a night off. Unfortunately we didn't get it done. I didn't get it done."
Zatkoff may find himself in the same situation Sunday since Fleury's status is unknown. However, Zatkoff had a career-high 50 saves in a 4-3 win over Buffalo (24-28-7) on Oct. 29.
The Penguins have averaged 4.14 goals during a seven-game winning streak over the Sabres, part of a stretch of 16 wins in their last 20 games against Buffalo.
Pittsburgh hasn't come close to that kind of production lately, particularly on the road. The Penguins have tallied just 16 times during a 2-2-3 stretch away from home.
Improving on that might be tougher with Evgeni Malkin (lower-body injury) possibly out for an eighth straight game overall. Sidney Crosby has just two points over the last five games, both coming in Thursday's 6-3 win over Detroit.
Facing the Sabres should get him untracked. Crosby has 47 points in 29 career meetings. He had two assists against the Sabres in October.
The Penguins are currently sitting in the Eastern Conference's last wild-card spot, and while Buffalo is 11 points behind it's showing some signs of life lately. The Sabres have outscored opponents 15-6 during a 3-0-1 stretch after beating Columbus 4-0 on Friday behind Robin Lehner's 38 saves.
Lehner is 4-4-2 with a 2.30 GAA and .932 save percentage on the season, but he's 2-0-1 while stopping 97 of 99 shots while starting three straight games.
That should be reason enough for him to get the nod again.
"He's an engaged goalie," coach Dan Bylsma said. "Maybe the most engaged goalie I've been able to coach and he was engaged (Friday). He was certainly on his game, he was strong."
Bylsma's other option is Chad Johnson, who has a 3.50 GAA while going 1-2-1 over his last four games. He had 26 saves at Pittsburgh in October.
Sam Reinhart has six goals over the last eight games, matching his production from his previous 24. The surge has also given him a team-leading 18 goals, ranking third in the NHL among rookies.
"I think it shows a lot to the support I've had," Reinhart told the team's official website. "I think there's lots of guys in our locker room that can chip in, we have a lot of depth in that sense, and I think at any given time anyone can be a guy who puts the puck in the net."