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Preview: Sabres Head South to Face Lightning

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Buffalo heads to Florida for pair, starting Wednesday in Tampa

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Game #64

Buffalo Sabres (19-33-11) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (43-17-3)

Season Series: 1-1

11/28: Lightning 2 | Sabres 0 (Recap)

2/13: Sabres 5 | Lightning 3 (Recap)

Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. EST | Amalie Arena | Tampa, FL

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Lightning blog: Raw Charge

What to Watch

1. No Kane, no gain?

Although Evander Kane was held out the last few games prior to the deadline, tonight’s game will be the Sabres’ first since trading him to San Jose earlier this week. Love him or hate him, Kane was a huge offensive piece for Buffalo. Behind the injured Jack Eichel (53 points) and Ryan O’Reilly (45 points), Kane was third in scoring on the team, with 20 goals and as many assists.

Other players will have to step up in the absence of two of the team’s top three scorers, with Eichel out indefinitely and Kane shipped off to the Sharks.

2. Reinhart, O’Reilly Finding Success Against Lightning

Though the Sabres got shutout in their first meeting with Tampa this season (a 2-0 loss), two players who stepped up big in the second meeting were Sam Reinhart and Ryan O’Reilly.

Reinhart had a pair of goals, including one on the power play and another empty-netter. O’Reilly, meanwhile, had a goal and two assists.

Entering tonight’s game, Reinhart is on a four-game point streak and overall has tallied 20 points (7-13) in his last 19 games. O’Reilly has eight points in his last eight games.

Tonight’s game is the third of four meetings between the Lightning and Sabres. They’ll close the season series out in Buffalo’s penultimate game on April 6.

3. The Scandy-man Can

Do you have a minute to talk about Marco Scandella? The Sabres defender has been on an absolute rip lately, with three goals in his last five games. He now has four goals on the season and is second on Buffalo in defensive scoring. His 18 points (4-14) are second only to fellow blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen, who’s put up 30 points this season.

Know Your Opponent

1. That Trade Though

The Lightning made a splash on deadline day, as they completed a seven-piece deal with the New York Rangers. Tampa acquired defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller, and shipped out Vladislav Namestnikov, Libor Hajek, Brett Howden and a pair of picks.

McDonagh had 26 points (2-24) in 49 games for the Rangers, while Miller was second on the team in scoring, with 40 points (13-27) in 63 games. They join a stacked Lightning team with offensive talent like Nikita Kucherov (82 points in 63 games), Steven Stamkos (71 points) and Brayden Point (54 points).

McDonagh also brings additional leadership skills to the Lightning; he was, of course, the Rangers’ captain.

The Lightning did play on Monday night, but neither McDonagh nor Miller played. Per head coach Jon Cooper, Miller will make his Tampa debut tonight against the Sabres. McDonagh will not play with his new team until next week.

2. Kucherov Likely Out

As of the time of writing, we don’t know the status of Kucherov for Wednesday’s game. He suffered an upper-body injury early in Monday’s game against Toronto and did not return. Cooper had no update following the game.

Wednesday morning, Cooper said that Kucherov is “up in the air but leaning toward doubtful.”

3. Lightning Ready to Strike

Tampa heads into tonight’s game on a four-game winning streak. Their last loss came on Feb. 17 against the Devils; since then, they’ve beat the Caps (4-2), Senators (4-3), Canadiens (4-3, shootout) and Toronto (4-3, shootout).

Projected Lineup:

28 Zemgus Girgensons - 90 Ryan O’Reilly - 23 Sam Reinhart

20 Scott Wilson - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 29 Jason Pominville

67 Benoit Pouliot - 22 Johan Larsson - 13 Nick Baptiste

17 Jordan Nolan - 10 Jacob Josefson - 25 Seth Griffith

6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

82 Nathan Beaulieu - 41 Justin Falk

93 Victor Antipin - 8 Casey Nelson

4 Josh Gorges

Starting Goaltender: 31 Chad Johnson