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Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning preview: The ‘Kucherov 100th point watch’ continues

Tampa Bay is flying high these days. Buffalo, on the other hand...

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME 62

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SUN, MSG-B

Opponent SBNation Site: Die By The Blade

Preview:

There are 20 games left this season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are on a seven game win streak and 13 points up on the second place team in the NHL. The Buffalo Sabres, on the other hand, are on a three game losing streak and six points out of the last wildcard spot in the East.

Things are going very well for the Lightning. They’re getting scoring from every part of their lineup. Their goaltending is good and consistent. Nikita Kucherov is one point away from 100 on the season (and if Brayden Point hadn’t missed the last game, maybe he’d have gotten it). Their special teams are at the top of the league.

Point did not play the game against Philadelphia after he missed a team meeting, but he’s expected to return tonight. The Bolts recalled Mathieu Joseph and sent Jan Rutta down, a sign that Victor Hedman is ready to return from an injury.

Things are not going very well for the Sabres. They’ve had pretty substantial lapses in defensive coverage and constant turnovers. They don’t put enough shots on goal, and are outshot most nights. They are really only getting scoring from their top line (led by leading goal scorer Jeff Skinner), and their powerplay has really struggled lately. Buffalo came undone in the third period against Florida on Tuesday, where the Panthers scored four straight goals on route to an easy win.

This game could go two ways. Either the Sabres get the win that they’re desperately due for thanks to a goalie standing on his head and their top line driving the offense, or the Lightning will walk all over them because everything has seemingly clicked for them.

This is the fourth and final meeting between Tampa Bay and Buffalo this season. The Lightning lead the season series 2-1. Their one loss came at the beginning of the season when their big name scorers were held off the scoresheet (Anthony Cirelli had the only goal). Buffalo will have to do just that if they want to walk out of Florida with two points.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - J.T. Miller

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Yanni Gourde

Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Mathieu Joseph

Scratched: Ryan Callahan, Danick Martel

Defense

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Scratched: Dan Girardi

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Jack Eichel - Evan Rodrigues

Conor Sheary - Casey Mittelstadt - Sam Reinhart

Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Jason Pominville

C.J. Smith - Vladimir Sobotka - Tage Thompson

Injured: Kyle Okposo

Defense

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Rasmus Dahlin - Zach Bogosian

Nathan Beaulieu - Casey Nelson

Scratched: Lawrence Pilut

Injured: Matt Hunwick, Marco Scandella

Goalies

Carter Hutton

Linus Ullmark