Buffalo Sabres (6-1-2, 14PTS) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-3-3, 7PTS)
7:00 PM EST, HSBC Arena
TV: MSG-B (Buffalo)
Radio: WGR 550 (Buffalo), XM-204 (National)
The Buffalo Sabres received good news on Wednesday, Paul Gaustad will make his regular season debut. Gaustad had been outs since the Pre-Season when he broke his thumb during an altercation. Gaustad was the Sabres best face-off guy last season and will be a welcome addition to the lineup tonight. It looks as though Matt Ellis will be the odd man out and Gaustad will center Peters and Kaleta. I expect to see him in other situations as well but overall I think Lindy wants to ease him into game action.
The Sabres have dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning over the past three seasons. They won all four meetings last season and have won 11 of the last 12 games between the two teams. A quick look at the game summaries of the past three seasons will show you that Thomas Vanek likes playing against the Lightning. Vanek has cooled a bit since his red hot start and is hoping that a game against Tampa Bay will help to get back on track.
The entire Sabres team is hoping to rebound from their worst performance of the season. Nobody expects them to win every game but it's important to avoid two consecutive poor games. The Sabres were beaten 5-2 by the Ottawa Senators who were struggling prior to the victory over Buffalo on Monday. The Sabres were outshot 25-15 after two periods and they were trailing 5-0 before netting two late power play goals.
I have mentioned before that the Sabres have good offensive numbers this season but it is because of special teams. They continue to struggle in even strength situations, scoring only 14 of their 27 goals at even strength. The Lightning ahave not scored much at even strength but they haven't allowed much either. The Lightning allow just over two goals a game but have allowed only 11 at even strength.
If this turns out to be a game that relies on special teams the Sabres have a distinct advantage. They have the number seven power play scoring 21.7% of the time while the Lightning have the number 11 penalty kill at 84.6%. The Sabres still have one of the better penalty kill units, even though they allowed two power play goals against the Senators. They are ranked number four in the league allowing only four power play goals while the Lightning have scored only four power play goals and are better than only the Florida Panthers on the power play.