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Preview: Sabres prepare to set franchise record

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Ten straight wins has team on top of the league

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Game 26

Buffalo Sabres (17-6-2) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (17-7-1)

Season Series: 1-0 Sabres

Puck Drop: 7:30 PM | Amalie Arena | Tampa, FL

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Lightning Blog: Raw Charge

Know Your Opponent

Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: (17-7-1) | 35 PTS

Last 10: 6-4-0

Division Ranking: 3rd in the Atlantic Division

Conference Ranking: 3rd in the Eastern Conference

PP: 6th (26.7%)

PK: 12th (80.9%)

What to Watch

1. Rollin’

Eight games ago, these same two teams squared off in Buffalo. For the Sabres it was the team’s third consecutive win - the beginning of what has grown to be a franchise-tying ten straight victories.

The wins haven’t come easily. There has been a lot of come-from-behind and seven of the victories have come in overtime. But a win is a win, and it’s difficult to focus on the negatives when the Sabres have become the only team to finish last and rocket to first place after 25 games.

It’s still early in the season, of course, but a win against Tampa not only give Buffalo a little breathing room, it sets a record that fans can pin on this squad that has made them so proud so quickly.

2. Even steven

Throughout the winning streak, Buffalo’s power play has been mediocre. At 17th in the league, a team that is scoring like the Sabres could certainly better.

It does speak to Buffalo’s even-strength abilities, though; which is really what drives wins in the modern NHL. Would it be better for the team to score on the advantage? Of course. It could help to eliminate some of those overtime games, for sure.

For Thursday’s matchup, the penalty kill will likely prove to be more important. Tampa’s power play is sixth in the league, and has been a key to the team’s success early in the season. The Sabres’ penalty kill should be up to the task, but the Lightning clearly have the type of firepower that can change a game - especially on the power play.

3. Pilut project

Rochester Americans defender Lawrence Pilut has made the trip to Florida with the team. Perhaps it’s to light a fire under some lagging blueliners. Perhaps it’s because the young Swedish star has 22 points (3 goals, 19 assists) in 16 games, which leads the team.

Buffalo’s defense has been a consistent contributor to the offense throughout the season, and especially as-of-late, with Rasmus Ristolainen getting the first goal in the game against San Jose and Rasmus Dahlin making the move that continues the play for Jeff Skinner to score the game winner. Still, Pilut could easily slot in to a bottom-pair role that would keep Buffalo’s offensive engine firing throughout the lines.

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Conor Sheary - Casey Mittelstadt - Kyle Okposo

Tage Thompson - Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Pominville

Evan Rodrigues - Johan Larsson - Zemgus Girgensons

Defense

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Zach Bogosian- Rasmus Dahlin

Nathan Beaulieu - Casey Nelson

Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

JT Miller- Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point-Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn- Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph

Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Defense

Ryan McDonagh - Victor Hedman

Slater Koekkoek - Dan Girardi

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Starting Goaltender: Louis Domingue