Game 10 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs Buffalo Sabres

Following a thrilling overtime victory Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning (6-3-0, 12 PTS) will see its lengthy home stand come to a close by playing host to the much-maligned Buffalo Sabres (2-9-1, 5 PTS) which will be playing the tail-end of a back-to-back after edging the Florida Panthers — despite a -40 shot attempt differential (!) — on Friday night, a result made possible only by a stellar 44-save performance from Jhonas Enroth.

The Sabres have found themselves in the news recently for all the wrong reasons — the club has gotten off to a miserable start, losing most nights in less-than-competitive fashion while two of its players, super-pest Patrick Kaleta and gigantic enforcer John Scott, have been suspended for delivering head shots to opponents. Add to that the lingering intrigue regarding the club’s handling of 2012 1st-rounder and 2nd-year forward, Mikhail Grigorenko, who still has yet to register a point this season and a longtime face of the franchise in Ryan Miller who may finally become eager to exit the circus with rumors already swirling that management would be willing to oblige.

 

Oh, and let we forget, Ville Leino, currently pointless, is still living up to his billing as one of the worst free-agent acquisitions in the modern era. It all amounts to a mighty big stink surrounding the Sabres, one presaged by, well, one awful “turd burger” that was the unveiling of new third-jerseys for this season.

The play of Enroth, who’s posted very solid numbers when he’s been in net for Buffalo despite the barrage of rubber he, like fellow netminder Miller, has had to contend with, is one of the few bright spots the team has been able to enjoy. The play of recently drafted youngsters on the blueline, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadarov, also stands out.

There’s no need to dwell too much on the data: in short, the Sabres are terrible by pretty much any measurable standard. Anemic offense? Checkroger that and oh, boy. Porous defense? Yepyou bet and sure thing. Their are numerous indictments that don’t need recitation. The Lightning aren’t without their flaws and anything can happen in a single game but, if there’s a club you want to face in the NHL right now, it’s no secret that team is the Buffalo Sabres. Just look at head coach Jon Cooper’s decision to rest rookie defensman Andrej Sustr and rugged winger P.C. Labrie in order to return defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio to the Lightning’s lineup.

With Thursday’s match against the Blackhawks marking the end of the first difficult stretch of the season, the Lightning, after tonight’s contest, have a three-game road trip to against the Panthers, Devils and Hurricanes, three clubs which have had their share of early season struggles and have earned a combined 24 points in 32 games played, to look forward to. Taking 2 of the 4 points possible from the tilts with Boston and Chicago was huge but failing to secure anything short of 2 or 3 wins over these next four games against lesser competition would be disappointing as a significant lost opportunity to stash away another chunk of points before having to face another spate of tough matchups that includes the Blues, Red Wings, Bruins, Canadiens and Ducks.

NOTES

Season Series

TAMPA BAY LEADS 1-0
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Rosters

LIGHTNING SABRES
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STATPACK

 

Team

TOI, POSSESSION & SCORING TOTALS
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POSSESSION & SCORING RATES
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POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING PERCENTAGES
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Special Teams

POWER PLAY
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PENALTY KILL
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Goaltending

ON-ICE TOTALS
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ON-ICE RATES
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ON-ICE PERCENTAGES
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Scoring

LIGHTNING
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SABRES
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Team stats cited from Extra Skater.

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