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Tampa Bay Lightning at Buffalo Sabres preview: Vasy starts

Second night of a back-to-back, can Bolts muster the energy for a win?

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning (29-26-8) at Buffalo Sabres (27-26-11): Game 64

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: KeyBank Center, Buffalo NY

Broadcast/Streaming: MSG-B, SUN

Opponent SBNation Site: Die By The Blade


At this point, the Bolts are a stretch to make the playoffs. Although they constantly hang around about four or six points out of the wild card spot, one has to wonder if it would be beneficial to the club if they did make it. Would it be better to exhaust the team in a late-season stretch, only to get swept by Montreal in round one?

The thought of an offseason to rest and assess the state of the team seems like a positive move for the Lightning. After multiple deep runs in past few years, the Bolts have consistently been worn down, including this year, which saw multiple key injuries to the club.

The Bolts, at 66 points, have three teams between them and the Islanders, in the wild card slot at 70. Regardless of the Bolts’ actually placement in the standings, whether two points or ten points out, the team has had a hugely lackluster year, and the reason my faith in their playoff hopes is dwindling is not because the point race itself but just because of the quality of play all season.

A few good games and wins does down the stretch do not foreshadow the rest of the season. The club had a down year as far as wins, but with Yzerman’s recent deadline moves and a season that saw huge development for the likes of Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov, we can be happy with how the season played out. If anything, this season allowed the club to prolong their window of opportunity for the cup for years to come.

Last night Tampa Bay had some good looks early on, but ultimately got dismantled by a superior club in the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tonight on the second half of the back to back, the Bolts will look to put together a more complete performance against a struggling Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres sit in a familiar situation this year to the Bolts, in that inconsistent play in all facets of the game has plagued them. The inability to close out games with the lead late in games, as well as flailing d-pairings, have given their goalies little help.

The Sabres didn’t make any moves at all at the trade deadline, which seems odd given that the Sabres will likely miss out on the playoffs, and did not shop any veterans for draft picks or compensations. GM Tim Murray was unable to trade UFA’s Cody Franson and Dimitri Kulikov, and questions still remain on forward Evander Kane and his time in Buffalo. If anything, tonight’s game will give a nice glimpse into how young stars are impacting their teams.

It seems much can’t be blamed on head coach Dan Bylsma, however. When he was handed the team two seasons ago, the organization was in full rebuild mode and increasingly gets better every season. He may be on the hot seat next season, though, if the Sabres’ play continues to be poor. That is of course if the Sabres GM gives him some room to work with.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Brayden Point- Jonathan Drouin

Vladislav Namestnikov - Cedric Paquette - Adam Erne

Gabriel Dumont - Greg McKegg - J.T. Brown

Defense Pairings

Jason Garrison - Anton Stralman

Victor Hedman - Andrej Sustr

Braydon Coburn - Jake Dotchin


Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Buffalo Sabres

Forward Lines

Tyler Ennis - Ryan O'Reilly - Kyle Okposo

Marcus Foligno - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Evander Kane - Zemgus Girgensons - Brian Gionta

Matt Moulson - Evan Rodrigues - Justin Bailey

Defense Pairings

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Dmitry Kulikov - Zach Bogosian

Josh Gorges - Cody Franson


Robin Lehner

Anders Nilsson