Lightning at Sabres Preview
The teams square off in the third of four meetings on the year. Tampa Bay took each of the first two meetings during a home and home series back in October, winning once via a shutout at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and earning an additional victory with a 4-3 win at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo.
The Big Story:
Both the Lightning and Sabres come in challenging each other for a much-desired playoff spot, with the teams sitting neck and neck in the standings. If the Lightning win, they would tie Buffalo in the standings and keep their chances of making the playoffs alive. A regulation loss, meanwhile, coupled with a win by the New York Islanders, would allow the Sabres to gain ground on the Lightning and drop the Bolts to just one point above last-place Carolina in the East.
Tampa Bay makes the second stop on its current three-game road trip, with Saturday’s game at Buffalo also serving as the first contest in a back-to-back set that continues with Sunday’s finale in Pittsburgh. Whether it’s by winning or losing past regulation, the Lightning just keep earning points to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Tampa Bay has points in eight of its past nine games, including the team’s most recent outing on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Bruno Gervais
snapped a 2-2 tie late in the second period to give the Bolts a one-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes, but a goal by New York forward Brian Boyle evened things up at three goals apiece to send things into overtime. Former Lightning center Brad Richards notched the game-winner 2:37 into the extra period to drop Tampa Bay to 15-1-1 when leading after 40 minutes. Steven Stamkos
also scored his league-leading 36th goal of the year in the contest, and Vincent Lecavalier
added a goal to support a 27-save effort by Mathieu Garon
Buffalo completes a back-to-back set in its own barn against the Lightning after earning a 3-2 shootout win over the cross-conference Dallas Stars on Friday. Down by two goals in the third period, the Sabres rallied around a pair of tallies from Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy to send the contest into overtime, where Buffalo continued to fire away shots on Stars net minder Kari Lehtonen. Nathan Gerbe notched the shootout winner in the tiebreaker to keep the Sabres alive in the playoff race, as they leapfrogged both Montreal and Tampa Bay in the standings for sole possession of 11th place and just eight points out of the final playoff spot in the conference.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos
has goals in three straight games and in four of his past five for the Lightning. Martin St. Louis
has points in all but one of his past 11 games, tallying six goals and 11 assists in that span. Bolts captain Vincent Lecavalier
has registered five points in his past three outings, while Teddy Purcell
enters Saturday’s game with points in consecutive games. For the Sabres, goaltender Ryan Miller has gone 5-0-1 with two shutouts in his past six starts, the best six-game stretch of his career.
LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund
(knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Dana Tyrell
(ACL, out for season, placed on Injured Reserve) and Ryan Malone
(upper body, day-to-day).
SABRES – Jochen Hecht (concussion), Cody McCormick (upper body) and Colin Stuart (knee).
“Every point is crucial, whether gained or lost, depending on how you look at it. But at the same time, we just have to continue to grab every point available.” – Dominic Moore
, as told to The Tampa Tribune, on his team’s mindset on climbing back into the playoff picture
Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson
played 38 regular-season games with Buffalo from 1998-2000. Tampa Bay center Dominic Moore
recorded a goal, three assists and 23 penalty minutes in 18 games with Buffalo at the tail end of the 2008-09 season. Sabres defensemen Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold both played against the Lightning as Calgary Flames during the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.