Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-4-1); Buffalo (6-2-2)
Season Series: The Bolts travel to HSBC Arena in Buffalo tonight for the second of four meetings this season. The Lightning picked up a point in the first matchup between the two clubs on Oct. 24 as they fell to the Sabres 3-2 in a shootout at the St. Pete Times Forum. The Lightning and Sabres meet again on Mar. 18 at Tampa Bay and Mar. 27 at Buffalo.
The Big Story: Lightning net minder Mike Smith made his sixth consecutive start, his longest streak of the season, and earned his 50th career win in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh. The Lightning goaltender has gone unbeaten in regulation in five out of his previous six starts, including four wins. Smith was also named the NHL's second star of the week for the period of play ending Jan. 3. He stopped 89 of 93 shots while posting a 2-0-1 record with a 1.31 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage. Forward Steven Stamkos has recorded three goals and a total of five points in as many career games against the Sabres. His very first goal in the NHL came against Buffalo on Oct. 30 of last season.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay looks to continue its hot streak in the first of three games on the road starting tonight. The Lightning enter the contest with five wins in their last seven and have posted their best mark against teams from the Northeast Division this season. So far in 2009-10, the Lightning have compiled a 4-3-3 record against teams from the Northeast, good for 11 points out of a possible 20. The Bolts have picked up points in five out of the last seven games against a Northeast opponent, including two contests last week versus Boston and Montreal, and have gone unbeaten in regulation in three out of their last four games against the Northeast on the road. In addition, Tampa Bay has killed 15 consecutive penalties and has not allowed an opposing power play goal since Dec. 23 against the Flyers.
SABRES – Buffalo returns home tonight for the first contest of a three-game home stand. The Sabres, winners of four straight, look to extend a seven-game point streak tonight against the Lightning. Buffalo has managed to continue its success at HSBC Arena despite getting outshot 39-7 and outscored 2-0 in the first period of its last three games. The Sabres have been outshot 62-20 in the opening period of their last five overall. Goaltender Ryan Miller recorded his fifth shutout of the season in his last game on Sunday against Montreal and ranks second in the NHL with a 2.02 goals-against average, as well as second in the league in wins with 23.
Who’s Hot: - Lightning forward Martin St. Louis has 10 points in his last seven games and also has seven goals and eight assists in 13 road games versus Buffalo. Kurtis Foster has tallied seven points in as many contests, while Vincent Lecavalier has recorded eight assists in seven. Mike Smith has made six consecutive starts, posting a 4-0-1 record with a 1.73 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage.
- Tim Connolly has nine points in six games for Buffalo and Jochen Hecht has totaled four points in two games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Jeff Halpern (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve, out one week) and Todd Fedoruk (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve, out one week). SABRES – Patrick Kaleta (upper body).
Quotable: “When you’re facing Miller, Brodeur, these type of guys, if you think you’re going to go through a game and get that one shot and score a goal, you might as well not even go on the ice. You’ve got to go on mentally where you’re going to throw the puck on net, go to the net, wraparounds, quick shots. Don’t take a big slap shot. You’ve got to go out there and throw everything at them, whether it’s a wrist shot, slap shot, a quick shot, wrap shot…everything has to go out there with a flurry of people in front of them. That’s the only way you can consistently beat these guys.” – Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet.
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