Time: 5:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN, MSG-B
Opponent SBNation Site: Die by the Blade
After another inconsistent performance on Friday night against the Boston Bruins, the Tampa Bay Lightning extended their losing streak to four games — so far their longest losing streak this season. The Bruins are still just one point ahead of them, however third place in the division isn’t giving the team a home ice advantage. The Lightning are now guaranteed to finish the regular season no lower than ninth in Eastern Conference, but the moment when the Lightning will clinch their playoff berth is being slowly postponed due to a strong New York Islanders’ stint of play in their most recent games.
Jon Cooper slightly reorganized the forward group in the latest game, swapping positions for Brandon Hagel and Steven Stamkos. That didn’t help the Lightning, as the team was outplayed by the Bruins — one of the best teams in the league in terms of possession. Brayden Point’s line really struggled against Patrice Bergeron’s line and finished the game with horrendous 31.25 CF% at 5v5. The best Lightning’s line was fourth line — which had gotten on the scoreboard through the efforts of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Jon Cooper decided to break up the top line, whose poor results have been especially frustrating recently. While Nikita Kucherov at least scored two assists in his last three games, both Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat were held scoreless in those games. Corey Perry is another player, who has a very long goal drought — his last goal was scored on March 6 against Chicago, exactly 16 games ago.
Ryan McDonagh appeared during yesterday’s practice and could make his return tonight. He has been skating with his usual partner Erik Cernak lately, which might be an indication that he’s ready to play. McDonagh missed eight consecutive games after blocking a shot against the Bruins on March 24.
Tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres won't be an easy walk for the Lightning. The Sabres are coming off two losses in their previous two games, but as most of their losses in the previous month, it was by just 1-2 goal deficit. The team had been already eliminated from the playoff contention, which allowed to give more ice time to their younger players. Tage Thompson has suddenly emerged as a go-to player, leading the team with 32 goals and 58 points. Jeff Skinner, after struggling two previous seasons, bounced back, reaching the 30-goal mark for the fourth time in his career. Both Alex Tuch and Payton Krebs, who were acquired by Buffalo in Jack Eichel’s trade, has been a good fit for the team, especially Alex Tuch, who scored 33 points in 41 games with his new team.
It’s the third and the last game between the Lightning and the Sabres this season. So far the season series is tied: the Sabres defeated the Lightning 5-1 back and October and the Lightning paid them a little revenge, beating them 6-1 in January.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn
Nick Paul - Steven Stamkos - Ross Colton
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak
Zach Bogosian - Cal Foote
Buffalo Sabres Projected Lines
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch
Rasmus Asplund - Casey Mittelstadt - Victor Olofsson
Payton Crebs - Dylan Cozens - Vinnie Hinostroza
Zemgus Girgensons - Cody Eakin - Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin - Henri Jokiharju
Mattias Samuelsson - Mark Pysyk
Jacob Bryson -Colin Miller