Lightning at Sabres: Game 18
Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Keybank Center
Broadcast/Streaming: Sun, MSG-B
Opponent SBNation Site: Die By The Blade
On Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres. These two teams are trending in opposite directions, but have something in common. Namely, they are entering this game tremendously short staffed.
Steven Stamkos went down with a lower-body injury midway through Tuesday's game against Detroit. He will be reevaluated in the coming days but is likely to miss some time. He now joins defenseman Anton Stralman and winger Jonathan Drouin on the Lightning injury list. Stralman is hoping to return this weekend; Drouin has a similar timeframe in his rehab, but both are expected out for this game. Which is a shame, as the winger, considered by some as one of the best young players in the league, will surely be missed.
Not that Buffalo will be able to take great advantage. The Sabres have even more pieces shelved. Star Jack Eichel remains out with a high-ankle sprain suffered this preseason. Second-leading scorer Ryan O'Reilly is also out, as is a lot of Buffalo's line depth. All this and Evander Kane just made his way back; he's only played five games to this point.
If the Sabres were able to capitalize with a fully healthy roster against a banged-up Tampa squad, this game may pose a higher level of interest. As it stands, the Lightning are the superior club both offensively and defensively.
Robin Lehner has been solid in goal for the Sabres but not good enough to overcome the weakest offensive attack in the NHL. Buffalo ranks 30th in the league in goals per game. It is the only team in the league scoring less than twice per contest.
Even without Stamkos, it will be hard for the Sabres to keep up with Tampa Bay offensively. The Lighting are taking more than 30 shots a game, scoring 3.1 goals per game and have the fifth-best power play in hockey. In the midst of a five-game road trip, TB scored four goals each of the first two games heading into the Buffalo game.
The Sabres hope to put an end to a five-game losing streak in this one, but there's a reason they are in last place in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic division. They certainly need Eichel and O'Reilly and others back quickly, but they also have a number of holes otherwise.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat - Vladislav Namestnikov - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point
Jonathan Drouin - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan
Cedric Paquette - Brian Boyle - J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman - Andrej Sustr
Jason Garrison - Nikita Nesterov
Slater Koekkoek - Braydon Coburn
Evander Kane - Sam Reinhart - Kyle Okposo
Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta
Will Carrier - Zemgus Girgensons - Matt Moulson
Evan Rodrigues - Derek Grant - Nick Baptiste
Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe - Cody Franson
Casey Nelson - Justin Falk