Preview: Could be a Shocking Night

Sabres host the Lightning in their first meeting of the season

Game #25

Buffalo Sabres (6-14-4) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (16-5-2)

Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. EST | Key Bank Center | Buffalo, NY


Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Lightning blog: Raw Charge

What to Watch

1. The big three are back together.

Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart have been reunited again. The trio has only played a few games together, but have been effective. In one of their games against the Pittsburgh Penguins all three combined for three goals, six points and 14 shots on goal.

2. Be ready out of the gate.

Tampa Bay is ranked as the second-best team in the league entering play tonight. If the Sabres are not ready to play when the puck drops this game could be over very quickly. The Lightning can skate and score. If the Sabres are not up to the task tonight it could get ugly on home ice.

3. Lehner needs to be on his game.

Robin Lehner will back in goal. He’s played fairly well over the last few starts, but he’ll need be on top of his game tonight. All four of the Lightning lines can fill the net and they get a lot of production from their defense. The Sabres don’t score a lot of goals, so they can’t fall behind by more than a goal or two.

Know Your Opponent

1. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are dangerous.

Stamkos is playing out of his mind right now off the knee injury that caused him to miss the majority of last season. He has 36 points in 23 games to lead the NHL. Kucherov isn’t far behind him with 34 points in 23 games, including 17 goals. The line of Stamkos, Kucherov and Vlad Namestnikov is the best in the game right now with 92 points combined so far this season.

2. Productive Defense

It’s not only the forwards that can put the puck in the net. The Bolts have blueliners who can hurt you offensively in Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev who combine for  32 points on the season. That’s more than the Sabres entire defense group if you were wondering.

3. Oh yeah, their goaltending is really good too.

If you can hold the offense in check and get by the Lightning defense. Well, then you only have to deal with Vezina Trophy favorite through the quarter mark of the season in Andrei Vasilevskiy. The 23-year-old has a league-leading 15 wins with a 2.31 goals against average and a .930 save percentage.

If you want some good news, maybe the Sabres are catching the Bolts at the right time. They’ve lost two straight entering tonight.

Projected Lineup

9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart

67 Benoit Pouliot - 90 Ryan O’Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo

17 Jordan Nolan - 22 Johan Larsson - 29 Jason Pominville

28 Zemgus Girgensons - 51 Kyle Criscuolo - 26 Matt Moulson

6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

19 Jake McCabe - 93 Victor Antipin

82 Nathan Beaulieu - 41 Justin Falk

Starting Goaltender: 40 Robin Lehner