The Sabres have their hands full against the high-powered Lightning

Tampa Bay has a seven-game winning streak heading into Thursday

Paul Hamilton
February 21, 2019 - 1:52 pm

Photo: Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports


Tampa, FL (WGR 550) - This season, the Sabres have beaten Tampa Bay 2-1 and lost 5-4 and 4-3. It’s pretty strange they’ve all been one-goal games because the Lightning are 15 points better than the No. 2 team in the NHL, which is Calgary. They average 3.90 goals per-game, which also leads the league. At an average 2.64 goals-against average, they are fifth in goaltending.

Tampa Bay has won seven straight games, scoring 35 goals. The NHL’s leading scorer Nikita Kucherov has seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in his last six games, and that includes no points in his last game at Philadelphia.

In the seven-game winning streak, Steven Stamkos has five goals and seven assists for 12 points.

Brayden Point was suspended last game by John Cooper for missing a meeting, but he has five goals and eight assists for 13 points in eight games.

Andrei Vasilevskiy has played in 24 out of 29 games since coming back from injury. The All-Star goaltender is 26-7-4 this season with a 2.28 goals-against and .930 save percentage.

With all the talent this Lightning team has, it’s not surprising that they’re 10-for-24 on the power play in their last six games.

The Sabres aren’t that aggressive and don’t take a lot of penalties, and they must stay out of the box in this one. Buffalo killed four penalties against Florida, but only had to kill three penalties total in the four games before that.

Buffalo has lost three straight to 29th-ranked New Jersey, the 20th-ranked New York Rangers and 19th-ranked Florida. The Sabres have four losses in five games and are 3-11-2 on the road since the 10-game winning streak ended. They’re 2-4-0 in their last six on the road.

Buffalo only has five goals in its last three games, while giving up 14.

Linus Ullmark has given up nine goals in his last two starts and was supposed to start his fourth game out of five, but he suffered a minor injury in the morning skate and will serve as the backup to Carter Hutton. Hutton is 15-17-3 with a 2.84 goals-against and .909 save percentage.

It seems like both goaltenders have been letting in that one bad goal on a nightly basis. Phil Housley said, “We haven’t really given our goalies a lot of run support, so that’s one area we’re going to focus on because our 5-on-5 differential hasn’t been very good our last three games.

“But it’s those times where when we do have a one goal lead or we’re down one goal, our checking has to come through and not expose our goaltenders to those Grade-A opportunities.”

Despite all the losing, the Sabres are still six points behind Columbus for the Eastern Conference’s final Wild Card spot. Montreal is seven ahead, while Carolina leads Buffalo by five points. The Flyers are tied with the Sabres and the Panthers are three back.

On Thursday, Carolina is at Florida, while San Jose visits Pittsburgh and Philadelphia is at Montreal.

Join Schopp and the Bulldog for the pre-game starting at 6:30 when they’ll be joined by Phil Housley, Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues and Vladimir Sobotka.

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