The teams square off for the fourth and final time this season. The Lightning have won each of the first three matchups on the year and will go for the season-series sweep Monday night. The two most recent contests between the clubs were each decided by just a single goal, while the very first game of the season came by way of a 3-0 shutout back on Oct. 22.
The Big Story:
As recently as 10 days ago, Tampa Bay and Buffalo were each battling for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But losses in five of the past six have the Lightning seven points back of division-rival Washington for the eighth seed, while Buffalo sits just two points out and continues to stay alive in the tightly-bunched race.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay hosts Buffalo as it continues on its season-long seven-game home stand. A 3-1 loss to St. Louis on Saturday was the fourth for Tampa Bay in five home games, as the Bolts again struggled to score goals for the second consecutive game. The Lightning didn't score until 4:11 remained in the third period against the Blues, getting a first career NHL goal from Brendan Mikkelson. The team also tallied just one goal in a 3-1 defeat to Toronto on Thursday with 26 seconds left. The Bolts will look to the NHL’s leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos to overturn their recent struggles on offense, as he has recorded a team-best four points against the Sabres this season and needs one more goal to match his career-high 51 from 2009-10.
SABRES – Buffalo travels to the Tampa Bay Times Forum to play the Lightning and conclude a two-game swing through the Sunshine State. The Sabres are 1-2-1 in their last four road games after going 6-1-1 in their previous eight. The current mark includes a 3-2 loss in the shootout to the Panthers on Saturday in which it surrendered a one-goal lead before tying the game at 2-2 and forcing overtime, ensuring the team at least a point. Tyler Ennis scored to extend a personal point streak to four games and Derek Roy also had a goal for Buffalo, which has now played in four consecutive games that have gone past regulation. Gaining at least a point in games down the stretch is definitely positive for a team trying to make the playoffs, but Buffalo will need to start reeling off some wins if it hopes to sneak into eighth place in the East standings.
Lightning forward Ryan Malone has points in seven of his past nine games with three goals and nine points in that span. For Buffalo, Tyler Ennis is currently enjoying a four-game point streak while rookie forward Marcus Foligno has three goals and two assists over his first five NHL games.
“We're not giving up. It's easy to get down on ourselves and easy to fold the tent in, but you really show who you are when you've got some adversity.” – Lightning forward Teddy Purcell, on the mindset of the team entering Monday’s game