Lightning (9-8-1, 19 Points) vs. Sabres (6-12-1, 13 Points)
TV/Radio: Sun Sports HD; AM 970 WFLA
The Bolts and Sabres face off in the first of three meetings on the year. Last season, Tampa Bay went 3-1-0 against Buffalo, including a home mark of 1-1-0. The Lightning’s lone victory at the Tampa Bay Times Forum came in the form of a 3-0 shutout on October 22. Following Tuesday night’s contest, the teams will meet again on March 26 in Tampa Bay before concluding the season set on April 14 in Buffalo.
The Big Story:
Tampa Bay dropped its most recent contest on Sunday at Pittsburgh, but nonetheless has won three of its past five which has helped the Bolts pull into a tie for first place with the Carolina Hurricanes at the top of the Southeast Division. With both the Lightning and Hurricanes in action Tuesday, Tampa Bay would need a win, paired with a Carolina loss, to reclaim sole possession of first. Buffalo, meanwhile, has dropped four straight and look to climb out of last place in the Eastern Conference.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay will play its only game at home this week on Tuesday night against the Sabres before traveling on the road for four in a row beginning Thursday at Madison Square Garden. The Bolts, after earning a 5-2 win at Carolina on Saturday, couldn’t quite replicate that same performance the following night on Sunday, when the team dropped a 5-3 contest to the Pittsburgh Penguins. After falling behind by three goals early on, Tampa Bay fought back to come within a single goal on two separate occasions, receiving tallies from Eric Brewer, Steven Stamkos and Cory Conacher to support a 10-save effort by Mathieu Garon, who came in relief of Anders Lindback. The Lightning came as close as 4-3 within the final minute, but Matt Cooke’s goal into an empty net with 52 seconds to play sealed the win for Pittsburgh.
SABRES – Buffalo travels to Tampa Bay to kick off a two-game swing through the Sunshine State that concludes with a second contest in Sunrise against the Panthers on Thursday night. When the Sabres dismissed Lindy Ruff last week, the hope was that change would soon be on the horizon. It’s still early, but so far the move has yet to pay off. The Sabres have lost four in a row and are mired in last place in the East with just 13 points. Buffalo is currently 0-2-0 in the Ron Rolston era, partially due to a lack of goal scoring that has been prevalent in each of the team’s past three losses, as it has scored just twice in that span. Buffalo scored a goal each in two of its past three games, only to be shutout by a 4-0 score in its most recent contests against the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos enters the contest on a five-game goal-scoring streak, while Cory Conacher has recorded a point in five straight games as well for the Lightning. Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek has been held off the score sheet in each of his past three games, but comes in ranked fourth in the league in points with 25.
LIGHTNING – Matt Taormina (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve) and Ryan Malone (Lower Body, Placed On Injured Reserve). SABRES – Jordan Leopold (Upper Body), Andrej Sekera (Lower Body) and Ville Leino (Hip, Placed On Injured Reserve).
Twitter Stat Pack:
Steven Stamkos was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday morning for period ending February 24 after registering a goal in each game last week and has points in six straight games.
The Lightning are the only team in the NHL this season to have three different rookies record a game-winning goal (Conacher, Panik and Killorn).
The Lightning's second ranked home power play (32.6%) will go up against the Sabres eighth ranked road penalty killing unit (84.1%).
Tampa Bay will look to contain Thomas Vanek who has notched 23 goals in 28 career games against the Lightning.
“We outshot them, we hung in there and we didn't panic. We fought back, but it was a tough position to put ourselves in.” – Martin St. Louis, following Sunday night’s defeat to the Penguins
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