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Slumping Sabres Hope to Bounce Back Against Lightning

After a rough past few weeks, Buffalo looks to get back in the win column.

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

Game 35

Buffalo Sabres (10-18-6) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (23-9-5)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Wild Blog: Raw Charge

Know Your Opponent

Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 23-9-5 | 51 PTS

Last Game: 5-2 loss to Boston Bruins on Saturday, Jan. 8

Division Ranking: 2nd in Atlantic Division

PP: 17th (19.0%)

PK: 15th (80.6%)

What to Watch

Quinn’s anticipated debut

After a wave of COVID has swept through the Sabres lineup over the past few weeks, we’ve had the chance to watch many players make their debut. Now, it’s Jack Quinn’s turn. After posting 26 points in 20 games this season in the AHL with Rochester, Quinn is more than deserving of this opportunity, and has progressed faster than many expected. Not only will Quinn get to make his NHL debut tonight, he is also projected to be on a line with two of the Sabres more skilled offensive players: Dylan Cozens and Vinnie Hinostroza. While it may take Quinn a few shifts to adjust to the big leagues, don’t be surprised if he produces on the score sheet in some way tonight.

Attempting to end the slump

The Sabres have had a rough last few weeks since their last win in Minnesota on December 16th, with five games being postponed and many players having to sit out games due to COVID protocol. Since then, Buffalo has lost five in a row, however only one of the loses was by more than one goal. Despite missing many key players and dealing with an inconsistent schedule due to postponements, the Sabres have shown decent effort in most of the five games to at least keep it close. If Buffalo wants to beat a tough Tampa Bay team tonight, the defense will have to improve its shaky efforts at times, while the offense will have to build quick chemistry given all the line changes and the Sabres top scorer, Tage Thompson, being out.

Skinner’s stride

While Buffalo will be missing Thompson, their leading goal scorer, Jeff Skinner has the opportunity to score goals in three straight if he pots one tonight, which would tie him with Thompson for team lead. After an awful season last year, only scoring seven goals in 53 games, Skinner has played much better during the 21-22 campaign, scoring 11 goals in 21 fewer games. While he may not be a franchise player or put up points in every game, confidence is everything for Skinner. Because once he’s on a role, you better watch out.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Rasmus Asplund - Victor Olofsson

Jack Quinn - Dylan Cozens - Vinnie Hinostroza

Anders Bjork - Cody Eakin - John Hayden

Mark Jankowski - Zemgus Girgensons - Brett Murray

Defense

Rasmus Dahlin - Henri Jokiharju

Jacob Bryson - Colin Miller

Will Butcher - Mark Pysyk

Starting Goaltender: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry

Boris Katchouk - Mathieu Joseph - Ross Colton

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak

Zach Bogosian - Andrej Sustr

Starting Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy (expected)