Preview: Lightning at Sabres
The Tampa Bay Lightning easily have the best record in the league, and part of that is due to their ability to rally from behind, with six victories in 11 games in which they trailed after two periods - by far the best percentage in the NHL. The Lightning look to put that talent on the backburner and make things easier on themselves when they begin a three-game road trip Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.
“We’ve got some guys on this team that step up on these occasions, and (Thursday) was no different,” Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman told reporters after the team rallied for a 3-1 win over Carolina on Thursday. “So we’re happy with the way we played in the third period with our resiliency and tenacity. … We’ll take that with us to Buffalo.” The teams split their first two meetings of the season, with the Sabres earning a 2-1 home victory on Nov. 13 - although they have won just six times in 19 tries since losing 5-4 at Tampa Bay on Nov. 29. Buffalo got leading scorer Jack Eichel back in the lineup Friday after the captain sat out three games with an upper-body injury, but it was not enough as the team dropped a 4-3 decision in Carolina. Linemate Jeff Skinner won the fan vote that added him to the Metropolitan Division team for the All-Star Game, then scored against his former club to reach 30 goals for the fourth time in his career.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Sun (Tampa Bay), MSG (Buffalo)
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (34-8-2): Brayden Point, who missed out on a chance for his second straight All-Star Game berth in the voting for the final spot on the Atlantic Division squad, has recorded two goals and an assist in each of his last two games. Point leads the team with 28 goals and is second in points (60) to Nikita Kucherov, who tops the league with 72 - including nine tallies in his last 12 contests. J.T. Miller (six games) and Ryan Callahan (two), who both have been out with upper-body injuries, could return on the road trip.
ABOUT THE SABRES (23-15-6): Eichel registered one shot and a minus-2 rating in 18 minutes, 34 seconds of ice time on Friday, finishing without a point for his third straight game despite leading the team with 49. Skinner has scored four goals in as many games while Sam Reinhart notched an assist at Carolina to push his season total to 41 points, although the 23-year-old has netted just one tally in his last 15 contests. Rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin notched a pair of assists on Friday, giving him three points in his last two games after registering one in the previous eight.
1. Buffalo RW Jason Pominville, who snapped his 18-game goal-scoring drought in the loss to Carolina, is slated to play in his 700th game with the club on Saturday.
2. The Lightning traded Slater Koekkoek and a fifth-round draft pick to Chicago for fellow D Jan Rutta and a seventh-rounder on Friday.
3. The Sabres assigned LW C.J. Smith to Rochester of the American Hockey League to make room on the roster for Eichel.
PREDICTION: Lightning 4, Sabres 1