Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Opponent SBNation Site: Die By the Blade
The Lightning continue their homestand tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. The teams played a back-to-back a couple weeks ago in Sweden but this game will be played in the more familiar confines of Amalie Arena.
The Lightning have the schedule advantage, having last played on Saturday, while the Sabres are playing for the second night in a row. They beat the Panthers who are in second place in the Atlantic to leapfrog the Lightning and regain fifth place. If the Bolts win tonight, they’ll move flip flop with Sabres again and move ahead of them in standings despite having played three fewer games.
Roster wise, I wouldn’t expect Steven Stamkos to return to the lineup. Head coach Jon Cooper seemed guarded in his comments after Saturday’s win over the Ducks. The Lightning have used 11 forwards and seven defenders in each of the last two games. That seems likely to continue tonight. The coaches also seem to prefer Cory Conacher to Carter Verhaeghe so look for last season’s AHL leading scorer to be a healthy scratch again.
On the blue line, the only question is whether Luke Schenn or Jan Rutta will draw into the lineup. Rutta has gotten the last couple games but he hasn’t done anything to suggest his spot is secure. Based on the lines at morning skate, it looks like Schenn will get the nod.
The Sabres did some weird stuff yesterday starting Brandon Montour at forward so that they could get Zach Bogosian in the lineup on the blue line. And given that it worked, they’ll probably roll out that alignment again.
In the two game series in Sweden, the Lightning controlled both games comfortably. In fact, they were two of the best games of the season for the Bolts. A repeat of those performances would so just fine for the Lightning as they continue to search for consistency.
Statistically, the Lightning have been better pretty much everywhere. They’ve done a better of job of controlling the game at 5v5 and they have a big advantage on special teams. One thing to watch for is that the Lightning power play has been lights out lately and the Sabres penalty kill has been atrocious so if Buffalo takes penalties, they could be in trouble.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
Patrick Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Yanni Gourde
Tyler Johnson - Cory Conacher
Carter Verhaeghe (scratched)
Steven Stamkos (injured)
Victor Hedman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Luke Schenn
Jan Rutta (scratched)
Jimmy Vesey - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner - Evan Rodrigues - Connor Sheary
Casey Mittelstadt - Rasmus Asplund - Victor Olofsson
Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Brandon Montour
Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin - Zach Bogosian
Marco Scandella - Henri Jokiharju