Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: KeyBank Center
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, MSG-B,BSSUN
Opponent SBNation Site: Die By The Blade
After losing two consecutive games last week at Amalie Arena, the Tampa Bay Lightning are heading on a small road trip for their first back-to-back of the season. Tonight, in the first leg of this back-to-back, the Lightning will face the Buffalo Sabres — another team coming off a two-game losing streak. But if the Lightning’s results have been very underwhelming so far, the Sabres had a pretty decent start, recording points in four out of five games this season.
As we mentioned in today’s Lightning Round process over outcome has been the Lightning’s motto in the past seasons, which has brought them some very good results. The start of this season indicates that the team’s coaching staff is still sticking to this ideology and not overreacting after some negative results, giving their players time to adjust to a new lineup. As the most recent games show, the Bolts are slowly heading in the right direction. In his latest interview, Jon Cooper mentioned that he sees a lot of positives in performance of his team and that they still manage to grind out some points despite playing very tough opponents.
The Lightning’s underlying numbers at 5v5 also have been pretty decent so far, as the team is above the water in most categories. According to the Natural Stat Trick, the Bolts are ninth in the league in shot attempt differential with 53.38 CF%, 14th in expected goal share with 52.16 xGF% and second in high-danger chances for percentage with 60.81 HDCF%. The Lightning, however, struggling to convert those chances in actual goals, as the team recorded just 33.33 GF% over the first five games of the season — the third worst result in the league.
The Lightning need to figure it out how to replace Nikita Kucherov as fast as possible, because their inefficient power play performance have been dragging them down. Since Kucherov’s injury the Bolts still haven’t scored any goal with man advantage, despite having nine opportunities over the last two games. The Lightning’s penalty kill has been better so far, ranking 12th in the league with 84.2%. Given that the team lost some very important pieces of their penalty kill in the offseason, those numbers are pretty encouraging.
Alex Barre-Boulet didn’t play in the previous game against the Colorado Avalanche, but could be available for tonight’s game. The Lightning also recalled Fredrik Claesson, who’s currently serving as a seventh defenceman, while Cal Foote is getting ice time with the Syracuse Crunch. Foote can be back with the team during this week. Given that the two next games will be back-to-back, we will likely see Brian Elliott making his debut for the Lightning.
With Cal Foote on a conditioning stint with #SyrCrunch, plan as of now is for him to play tonight and Wednesday in Hershey, but depending on how things go tonight for #GoBolts he could join them on Monday/Tuesday— Lightning Insider (@Erik_Erlendsson) October 23, 2021
Meanwhile, the Sabres are trying to live without Jack Eichel, who’s desperately trying to find his way out of the team. The Sabres started the season with three wins in a row, mostly due to strong performance of their goaltending tandem Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski, who allowed just four goals over that span. The team have slowed down a little bit since then and lost the two most recent games, but still managed to earn a point in the latest game against the New Jersey Devils. The Sabres defenceman Colin Miller have been so far the hottest player on their roster, recording five points in five games at the start of the regular season. The third line have been very efficient for the Sabres so far, as both Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo lead the forwards in points.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
(lines based on previous game)
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Steven Stamkos
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Matieu Joseph
Alex Barre-Boulet- Ross Colton - Corey Perry
Boris Katchouk - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Taylor Raddysh
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Andrej Sustr
Updated with the news that ABB is drawing in with Pat Maroon out (baby) and Brian Elliott getting the start.
Buffalo Sabres Lines
Jeff Skinner – Dylan Cozens – Vinnie Hinostroza
Rasmus Asplund – Tage Thompson – Victor Olofsson
Anders Bjork – Zemgus Girgensons – Kyle Okposo
Drake Caggiula - Arttu Ruotsalainen – John Hayden
Rasmus Dahlin – Will Butcher
Jacob Bryson – Colin Miller
Robert Hagg – Mark Pysyk