Game 3 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Buffalo Sabres

After having to test their mettle against the reigning Stanley Cup champions and last season’s runner-up, the Lightning get to square off against an Buffalo Sabres team that has gotten off to a dismal start, both in terms of their record (0-3-0, 0 PTS) and by just about every statistical imaginable. The Sabres, though, have likewise had to face stiff competition out of the gate, with matches against two perennial “contenders” in the Red Wings and Penguins and a resurgent Senators franchise.

Chicago’d. (TB’s Fenwick “Close” through 2 games via Extra Skater.)

Two and a few games is an incredibly small sample but both clubs currently bring up the rear of the league (TB is 29th, BUF 30th) in terms of possession percentages, although running into a buzz-saw in Chicago savaged their standing after what was a pretty impressive, power play endeavors aside, season-opening performance in a town the Lightning organization has found wins hard to come by over the years. Buffalo has yet to have a performance to really hang their hat on. Sure, they held the Senators to a single goal in their 2nd loss of the season but, as was the case in their other two losses, lost the possession battle handily.

Struggling mightily to suppress shot attempts against while finding it difficult to generate their own, Buffalo has suffered the fate you would expect the club to have earned most nights but, while the Sabres’ struggles may very well continue but they are not going to go scoreless in “close” situations forever. The Lightning, dominated in nearly every meaningful facet of the game, managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Chicago but it’s hard to put too much stock on a bad-process-good-result road performance against a marquee team like the Blackhawks, especially on the heels of losing a match in which the Lightning had two five-on-three opportunities they failed to score on and, more egregiously, surrendered two short-handed goals. All despite more than holding their own at even-strength. It’s just hard to draw firm conclusions about either club yet.

Also worth noting is the similar course these the two teams,  both under the guidance of second-year coaches who replaced their predecessors during the course of last season, seem to be on. Both are at a critical juncture, in the midst of a transitional period that has them heading into uncharted waters with an old guard on borrowed time, a nucleus of still young veterans and a fresh crop of homegrown or acquired young talent.

At any rate, tonight is an opportunity for both clubs, with the Sabres hungry for any sort of positive traction and, for the the Bolts, grabbing four out of six points possible on a season-opening road trip would be a welcome tonic if they can march into Buffalo’s barn and snatch a victory in convincing fashion in advance of a lengthy (7-game) home stand.

SEASON SERIES
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Rosters

LIGHTNING
SABRES
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Team Stats

LIGHTNING
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Player Scoring

LIGHTNING
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SABRES
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Team stats cited from Extra Skater.

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