Preview: Sabres close out 2019 against Lightning
Tux and Pucks tradition continues tonight at KeyBank Center.
Buffalo Sabres (17-16-6) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (20-13-4)
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Lightning Blog: Raw Charge
Know Your Opponent
Tampa Bay Lightning
Last 10: 6-3-1
Division Ranking: 4th in Atlantic Division
Conference Ranking: 9th in Eastern Conference
PP: T1st (29.3%)
PK: 18th (80.3%)
What to Watch
1. Let’s Get Physical
The Sabres have yet to beat the Lightning this season and this is their first and only match-up at KeyBank Center.
In addition to lacking scoring depth for what seems an eternity, Buffalo has also struggled to show any sense of grit. Dare I say the last gritty player was...Zack Kassian? The Bruins pushed the Sabres around like rag dolls the other night and lest we forget Vladimir Sobotka is currently recovering from surgery thanks to Tampa doing the same back in November. Rasmus Dahlin suffered a concussion after a dirty hit from the Bolts in a different game as well.
Cue the Dalton Smith signing this week. While it’s not confirmed he’s in the lineup tonight, he participated in practice and the trade is obviously intentionally timed. He’s not a permanent fix to the Sabres’ long list of problems, but it will be interesting to see if he’ll be on the ice to send a message to the visiting team.
2. Stamkos and Kucherov and Hedman...Oh My
Tampa Bay is on a bit of a hot streak and in that streak is star forward Steven Stamkos who earned his 800th point in a Montreal defeat just the other night. Though he leads his team in goals with 14, it is Nikita Kucherov who sits at the top with 40 points and a +5. He’s also the culprit for Sobotka’s knee injury.
Victor Hedman is another player to keep an eye on tonight. Recently named an NHL All Star, the top defenseman has tallied nine points in his last five games.
3. Go Bills
Listen, if the Bills were playing tonight, that’s what I would advise watching instead - a team that has truly rebuilt itself. But, unfortunately for fans of winning Buffalo teams, it’s Tuesday.
This week, there has been a lot of talk focused around closing out the decade. When Sabres fans look back and reflect on the last ten years, it certainly hasn’t been a time to remember - more like a time to forget. Like the rest of the City of Good Neighbors, I’m waiting on general manager Jason Botterill to make moves offensively to improve scoring. While I truly don’t know where to look for this void, it’s also not my job. It’s his. Let’s cross our fingers for a better decade ahead.
Victor Olofsson - Jack Eichel - Kyle Okposo
Marcus Johansson - Johan Larsson - Sam Reinhart
Zemgus Girgensons - Curtis Lazar - Evan Rodrigues
Jimmy Vesey/Dalton Smith - Rasmus Asplund - Conor Sheary
Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin - Brandon Montour
Marco Scandella - Henri Jokiharju
(Zach Bogosian - Colin Miller)
Starting Goaltender: Linus Ullmark (unconfirmed)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Mathieu Joseph - Tyler Johnson - Yanni Gourde
Pat Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Mitchell Stephens
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk
Starting Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevsky (unconfirmed)