The playoff race is on; Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning preview

WHERE:St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EST
MEDIA: WTOG 44 (local TV), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Die By The Blade

Have you looked at the standings lately? I mean, really looked at them in the division and the Eastern Conference? I brought up how tight the SE race was before Wednesday's win shootout victory over the Thrashers, but seeing is more important than being told what the deal is:


Southeast Standings

GP W L OTL PT
Washington 33 18 11 4 40
Atlanta 33 17 11 5 39
Tampa Bay 31 17 10 4 38
Carolina 30 14 12 4 32
Florida 30 14 16 0 28

(updated 12.18.2010 at 7:13 AM EST)



With two games in hand, the Bolts are thisclose to grabbing a share of the division lead. The Southeast division has three teams currently in playoff position (with a fourth, the Hurricanes, coming up the rear and slated ninth in the conference)

It's December, the season has yet to reach the half-way point, but jockeying for position in the East is high gear before the new year has been rung in.

The Buffalo Sabres come into town tonight, on the heels of their loss to the Florida Panthers last night. The Sabres are evidence of the parity in the Eastern Conference -- you don't want to get caught thinking they are bottom dwellers, but they are 11th in the conference standings with a losing record. The Atlantic division is dominated by the Montreal Canadiens, followed by the Bruins, and trails off quickly with the Senators, Sabres and Maple Leafs.

Yet, while Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers were great last season, inconsistent would be a better description for them this year. Miller, in last night's loss, gave up four goals on 10 shots and was chased in favor of Patrick LaLime. That's completely uncharacteristic of the Millercle worker of last year.

But then again, Miller has been battling groin issues as of late. And as Lightning fans know well, goalie issues lead to team issues entirely.

Mike Smith gets the start in net for Tampa Bay tonight, his second start in a row.

The Buffalo Sabres power play is ranked 20th int he NHL, they are converting 16.4% of their opportunities, and they are 20 for 122 for the entire season. They'll be facing the Lightning's 7th ranked penalty kill unit, which is shunning 83.9% of opposing power plays, and has allowed 20 goals in 124 short-handed situations through 31 games.

And then there's the Lightning power play, which is 3rd in the NHL, converting on 23.7% of their chances (32 for 135 on the season). The downside of that is they've also given up a league leading 7 short-handed goals this season so far. They'll be squaring off against Buffalo's 12th ranked penalty kill unit. The Sabres are stopping 82.5 of opposing power plays (22 goals allowed on 126 short-handed situations the season).

The Raw Charge game thread goes live at 7 PM. If you are not attending tonight's action, please join us.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

Bolts 2 Cup

Tampabay..com

CS Sports

Full game coverage on SB Nation

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Raw Charge

You must be a member of Raw Charge to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Raw Charge. You should read them.

Join Raw Charge

You must be a member of Raw Charge to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Raw Charge. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker