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The Buffalo Sabres are in a bad way. After repeatedly making strides at different times in the season they have continued to step backward from success and are now one of the bottom dwellers in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo is now two games into the Ron Rolston era in Sabreland and they are still winless.
Not only are they winless, but they are frustrated. If you want confirmation just ask Ryan Miller. Miller tried to fight Matt Martin on Saturday night before voicing his frustrations during the post-game press conference after the 4-0 rout on Long Island.
Buffalo has fallen to the second worst record in the NHL thanks to their current 4 game losing streak. Meanwhile, their opponents in tonight’s game, the Tampa Bay Lightning, have won 3 of 5 to push themselves into a playoff spot in the East.
Buffalo could use some consistent scoring from multiple lines and players. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville dominated in the early goings of the season, but have since run cold. Tyler Ennis is on a tear right now after a slow start. The Sabres would like to get their top two lines clicking at the same time to energize the offense.
The Sabres are also in search of a serviceable top-6 on defense. Ron Rolston has also begun playing with ice time and pairings on the backend to try to give his team the best chance of winning. They would ideally like players like Tyler Myers and Jordan Leopold to recover from their early season woes.
For the Lightning they are a team that is walking a razors edge of success. They are relying on a combination of aging stars and young up-and-comers to support Steven Stamkos. Right now it is working. Players like Martin St. Louis, Benoit Pouliot, Teddy Purcell, Vincent Lecavalier and Cory Conacher are providing important support to their young superstar and it has allowed Stamkos to surpass Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek and take the league lead in both goals and points.
Tampa Bay is also counting on some young emerging talent to keep the puck out of the net. Victor Hedman is having a career year so far. Matt Carle signed a big contract over the summer and is expected to earn it, although so far he has been struggling. The same could be said for Anders Lindback. Despite seeing a ton of the ice time share, his numbers have been, at best, underwhelming so far this year.
If Buffalo can get to Lindback early they have a shot at the win, but Tampa has a lot of scoring threats and Buffalo has been fragile after giving up goals in recent games and that could spell their doom against a loaded Tampa top-6.