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Sabres Seek to Strike Lightning

Buffalo wraps up their road trip in Tampa Bay.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Toronto Maple Leafs Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Game 74

Buffalo Sabres (26-36-11) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (43-20-8)

Puck Drop: 5:00 PM | Amalie Arena | Tampa Bay, FL

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Lightning Blog: Raw Charge

Know Your Opponent

Tampa Bay Lightning Record: 43-20-8 | 94 PTS

Division Ranking: 4th in Atlantic Division

PP: 13th (21.6%)

PK: 10th (81.4%)

What to Watch

1. Deadly Swede Shot

It took a while, but Victor Olofsson has regained his early season form after a wrist injury hindered his shooting ability. He has goals in four of his last five games and has been virtually automatic when given space to pick his spot. This has helped a Sabres offense that was looking for consistent secondary scoring behind their top line of Skinner-Thompson-Tuch. He has also revitalized the second powerplay unit with two powerplay goals in his last five games. Now that the threat of Olofsson’s one time has returned, there has been more space for Jokiharju and Krebs to operate on the other side of the umbrella. Brian Elliot may have a good history against the Sabres, but there won’t be much he can do if Olofsson is given time and space in the slot.

2. Be Prepared to Respond

Tampa Bay is undoubtedly one of the most skilled teams in the NHL. However, they are also no strangers to questionable physical play at times. Two examples from 2019 come to the mind of Sabres fans. One would be a low hit by Kucherov on Vladimir Sobotka that ended Sobotka’s season and his NHL Career. More infamously, Erik Cernak elbowed Dahlin in the face resulting in a concussion for Dahlin and a two -game suspension for Cernak. This Sabres team has proven to be a close-knit group. This will be tested if any Tampa Bay player takes liberties with any Sabre. Buffalo should be ready to respond to any extracurricular activities and stand up for each other. They have done well to begin building a positive culture in the locker room. Being ready and willing to stand up for each other in case of any cheap shots (looking at you Cernak).

3. Spread the Ice Time

Today’s game will be the 3rd in 4 nights for Buffalo, and their 3rd straight road game against a top 10 NHL team. It is important not to rely too heavily on one line or defensive pair on any given night, but the importance increases when playing tough opponents with practically no time to rest between games. Don Granato will have to watch the minutes of his top players to ensure they have enough gas in the tank for the 3rd period. Secondary scoring and quality shifts from the bottom six forwards will be vital to success against a Lightning team that is fighting for playoff position with Boston. Buffalo will need to keep shifts short and avoid getting pinned in the defensive zone to prevent fatigue from overtaking the team.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Skinner - Thompson - Tuch

Krebs - Cozens - Hinostroza

Asplund – Mittelstadt – Olofsson

Girgensons - Eakin – Okposo

Defense

Dahlin - Jokiharju

Miller - Pysyk

Samuelsson - Bryson

Starter: Anderson

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Palat – Point – Kucherov

Paul - Stamkos – Colton

Hagel – Cirelli – Killoran

Maroon - Bellemare - Perry

Defense

Hedman – Rutta

Sergachev – Cernak

Foote - Bogosian

Starter: Elliott