The Buffalo Sabres continue their road trip through Florida tonight as they meet with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the fourth and final time on the season.
Both teams enter tonight’s contest looking to return to winning ways. Buffalo’s last two efforts resulted in shootout losses to the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers, respectively, while Tampa Bay has also lost its last pair—both 3-1 losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues.
Despite Buffalo’s heartbreaking defeats, the weekend’s happenings were kind to the Sabres in their chase for a playoff spot. The Winnipeg Jets (76 points) lost in regulation 4-3 at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, while the Washington Capitals (78 points) were crushed 5-2 by the Chicago Blackhawks also on Sunday. With a win, the Sabres would lift themselves to 78 points, and would tie with the Capitals should Washington lose in regulation during their meeting with the Detroit Red Wings this evening.
Buffalo will need to take advantage of a Tampa Bay team, who has all-but fallen out of playoff contention with 71 points, and its numerous defensive deficiencies. The Lightning sit at dead last in the entire NHL in goals against behind the disappointing performances of netminders Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon.
Their special teams are equally ineffective. Tampa Bay has allowed a staggering 53 power play goals this season, a total that stands at second highest in the league. Their power play, ranked 23rd in the league, has given up 11 short-handed goals—also second most in the NHL.
And if not to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Sabres will look for a victory this evening simply to avoid a regular season sweep. The Lightning have won each of the previous three meetings, two of which occurred back-to-back in a home-and-away series between the two teams in October.
Tonight’s puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 EST from the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Fans can catch the action on MSG or listen in through WGR 550.