The Tampa Bay Lightning have taken a page out of Buffalo’s book and fired their coach. Buffalo release Lindy Ruff earlier this season and now Guy Boucher joins him in the unemployed ranks. Tampa released their head coach on Sunday, Jon Cooper, who coached in Norfolk, was named the new head coach on Monday. This will be his first game behind the bench for Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay and Buffalo are similar in their records as well this season. Both teams have 13 wins on the year. The teams have also lost the same number of games, but the Sabres have pushed three more of those games into overtime.
Buffalo’s power play has scored goals in four straight games, but the still sit last overall in the NHL in power play efficiency. Tampa’s power play is in the middle of the pack. Tampa’s PK has been effective this season, while Buffalo’s penalty kill is in the bottom five in the league.
Tampa hasn’t struggled to score this season; averaging more than four goals per game. They have struggled to win close games. They have also been hit hard by injuries. Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, Anders Lindback and Benoit Pouliot all missed Friday’s game against Ottawa.
Cedrick Desjardins started for Tampa on Sunday night due to Anders Lindback’s injury that has landed him on injured reserve. Mathieu Garon could get the start against Buffalo, but he too has been battling an injury. Buffalo will likely start Ryan Miller.
Buffalo continues to try to turn their season around. They are riding a three game winning streak, all against Canadian teams. The streak has pushed Buffalo to within two points of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference and a potential playoff berth. They will need to continue winning with most teams in the conference holding games in hand over Buffalo.
The Sabres need to score more goals to help them win more games. Their defense is improving and Ryan Miller has been solid for the most part. Buffalo has only been scoring 2.56 goals per game. Thomas Vanek, Cody Hodgson, Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis are leading the team offensively, but they aren’t getting much support.
Tampa Bay has quite a few players who are producing for the team. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis each have already broken the 40 point barrier (compared to 0 players on the Sabres roster). Teddy Purcell, Cory Conacher and Victor Hedman are all enjoying breakout seasons as well.
Martin St. Louis has some extra motivation for the game against the Sabres. He currently sits tied with Peter Bondra for 100th on the all-time point total list with 892. A point against Buffalo will push him past Bondra and into sole possession of that distinction.
The puck will drop shortly after 7:30 PM from the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The game will be broadcast on MSG.