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Tampa Bay Lightning at Buffalo Sabres Preview and Game Day Thread

These two teams are in different places since their last meeting

Tampa Bay Lightning v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Buffalo Sabres: GAME #38

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Keybank Center

Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN, MSG-B

Opponent SBNation Site: Die by the Blade

Things were a bit different the last time the Tampa Bay Lightning were in upstate New York. It was the end of October and Craig Anderson has just turned aside 35 of their shots to propel his Sabres team to a 5-1 victory. The win took Buffalo to a 4-1-1 record while the Lightning dropped to 2-3-1.

The final score made it look like a blowout, but the Bolts were actually in control possession-wise for most of the game. Unfortunately, a couple of mistakes ended up in the back of the Lightning net to give the Sabres a 3-1 lead in the third. Coach Cooper’s agressive pull of Brian Elliott (with 6 minutes to go in the game) didn’t work out and Buffalo added two empty net goals to finish off the game.

Since then things have gone a little differently for the two organizations. The Lightning went down to Pittsburgh the next night and beat the Penguins fairly handily and kicked off a 21-6-4 stretch. Meanwhile, Buffalo has scuffled along with a 6-17-5 record since their win against Tampa Bay.

Anderson suffered an upper-body injury a few days after the game and hasn’t played since November 2nd. In his stead there has been a rotating cast of netminders. Old friend Dustin Tokarski has seen the bulk of the action, appearing in 14 games and posting a 3.28 GA and .903 SV%. Prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukhonen, Aaron Dell, and Malcolm Subban have also seen time between the pipes.

Keeping the puck out of the net has been a glaring issue for Buffalo. Their 3.47 goals allowed per game ranks 27th in the league. Teams have been peppering their nets with shots along the way as they’ve allowed 34.1 shots per game, 30th in the league.

If their defensive struggles aren’t enough to worry Sabres fans, they will also be without their leading scorer as Tage Thompson is currently in COVID protocol. He’s been one of the few bright spots this season posting 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in 34 games. His absence does lead the way for one of their top prospects to make his NHL debut. Jack Quinn was called up from Rochester and is expected to make the start tonight.

On the other end of the ice, the Lightning are looking to bounce back from a fairly poor outing against the Boston Bruins over the weekend. Defensive lapses, poor gap control, and a lack of energy doomed them to a rather pedestrian 5-2 loss to the Bruins.

Their roster still isn’t quite at full strength as Ross Colton remained in COVID protocol, Zach Bogosian is dealing with a lower-body injury, and Ryan McDonagh is still day-to-day with a lower-body ailment as well. Still, they should have enough talent on the roster to put together a full 60-minute effort and get back into the win column.

Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry

Boris Katchouk - Mathieu Joseph - Taylor Raddysh

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak

Andrej Sustr/Zach Bogosian - Cal Foote

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Update - Sounds like Bogosian is back in while McDonagh and Colton are game-time decisions.

Buffalo Sabres Projected Lines

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Rasmus Asplund - Victor Olofsson

Jack Quinn - Dylan Cozens - Vinnie Hinostroza

Anders Bjork - Cody Eakin - John Hayden

Zemgus Girgensons - Mark Jankowski - Drake Caggiula

Defense

Rasmus Dahlin - Henri Jokiharju

Jacob Bryson -Colin Miller

Robert Hagg - Casey Fitzgerald

Goaltenders

Ukko-Pekka Luukonen

Dustin Tokarski

Lines based on Monday’s practice. Subject to change (especially since Caggiula was wearing a non-contact jersey)