Oct 8, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; linesman Greg Devorski (54) drops the puck for a face-off between Buffalo Sabres center Steve Ott (9) and Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Buffalo Sabres


The Tampa Bay Lightning certainly have a lot to celebrate coming into tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Let’s take a look at tonight’s matchup between our Tampa Bay Lightning and the Buffalo Sabres.

Coming off of a thrilling OT win against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks would seemingly give the Bolts the advantage in momentum tonight; however, not if Buffalo has anything to say about it.

The Lightning are currently 6-3-0 so far this season. Not a shabby start for a team that people assumed would be sitting at the bottom of the standings this season.

This is largely in part to some rather stellar performance by goaltender Ben Bishop, and a renewed since of camaraderie on the ice between our players. I know that may not seem like a giant impact on a hockey team; however, when you can blatantly tell that your players are working better together as a team, communicating more effectively on the ice, and putting forth double the aggressiveness in their play as they have in previous seasons, this is a significant difference.

On the other side of the ice, Buffalo has not met with the same level of success that the Lightning have this season. They are currently 2-9-1 so far this season, and sitting at the very bottom of the Atlantic Division standings coming into tonight’s game. They have not been able to put together a single string of wins so far.

However, the last thing the Bolts need to do is underestimate the Sabres. Even when you are facing a team that has been met with so much adversity this season, underestimating a team can get you into some serious trouble.

According to the numbers, this is going to be the Bolts’ game to lose.

Bolts Sabres
Goals Per Game 3.44 1.42
Goals Against per Game 2.89 2.83
Shots on Goal Per Game 25.78 25.33
Penalty Minutes Per Game 16.22 12.08
Power Play Goals 9 4
Power Play Percentage 24.3% 10.3%
Penalty Kill Percentage 79.5% 84.2%

 

In some areas, these two teams are fairly evenly matched. They are essentially tied in Goals Against Per Game and Shots on Goal Per Game. However, when it comes to things like Goals Per Game, the Bolts have the clear advantage.

The special teams will also play a key role in tonight’s game.

The Bolts essentially double up on the Sabres when it comes to capitalizing on the Power Play; however, the Sabres have the slight advantage in Penalty Kill Percentage.

Lightning Steven Stamkos leads the Bolts right now in Points. He currently has 7 goals and 7 assists for a total of 14. Sabres center Cody Hodgson leads Buffalo with 9 points; 4 goals and 5 assists.

One of the things that the Bolts are going to have to really pay attention to tonight is the amount of penalties they allow themselves to be roped into. You all already know my opinion on the definition of a ‘necessary’ and an ‘unnecessary’ penalty. It is the unnecessary ones that they need to steer clear of.

Another pet peeve of mine, and the Bolts have been guilty of this a lot this season is the passing game. What I mean by that is the gross overpassing that they seem to do on certain drives. While I will concede that not every single player is set up for that perfect shot, when you continually pass the puck between players in the offensive zone in order to continually attempt to set up the same player, i.e. someone like Steven Stamkos, eventually, you are going to meet the business end of a defending players stick and end up back in your defensive zone.

The keys to tonight’s game:

  1. Keep the pressure on, and the puck in the offensive zone.
  2. Stay out of the penalty box.
  3. Capitalize on the Power Play.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make a hard, clean hit.
  5. Take the puck to the net.

 

The Sabres will be without two of their players tonight due to suspensions. Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta is nearing the end of his 10-game suspension for his incident with Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson on October 10th. They will also be without defenseman John Scott who has been suspended indefinitely pending his in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety in regards to his incident against Boston’s Loui Eriksson on Wednesday night.

More than likely the Bolts will be shooting against Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller tonight. Miller is currently 1-7 in his 8 appearances this season with a GAA of 3.01 and a Save Percentage of .918.

Lightning Beat Reporter Missy Zielinski tweeted out this afternoon that Coach Cooper had not yet made a decision in regards to who would start in net for the Bolts tonight.

The Bolts face a back-to-back this weekend heading into Sunrise tomorrow night to face the in-state rival Florida Panthers.

Goaltender Anders Lindback has yet to earn a win so far this season in his two starts. He currently has a GAA of 3.80 and a Save Percentage of .839. Bishop on the other hand is 6-1 in his 7 appearances this season with a GAA of 2.53 and a Save Percentage of .915.

Will the Lightning be able to capitalize on the Sabres struggles this season and get another win streak going into tomorrow night’s faceoff with the rival Florida Panthers? We will all have to watch and see!

Make sure to check back with us tonight as we break down tonight’s match up for you and give you our insight in the ups and downs of every minute of the action tonight.

 

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Tags: Buffalo Sabres NHL Tampa Bay Lightning