NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, March 27th
(All times eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (30-32-12) at Buffalo Sabres (40-23-10), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Buffalo Sabres get another chance at officially ending
their two-season playoff drought this evening when they go for a fourth
straight win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at HSBC Arena.
The Northeast Division-leading Sabres failed to secure a postseason berth on
Friday night in a 4-2 loss to the Senators. The setback ended Buffalo's four-
game winning streak and was their ninth straight to division-rival Ottawa,
which moved within five points of first place in the division standings. The
Sabres, though, have two games in hand over the Sens.
Ryan Miller made 27 saves, while both Jason Pominville and Tim Kennedy scored
goals. However, Kennedy also took a two-minute slashing penalty early into a
power play for Buffalo after Ottawa's Mike Fisher received a five-minute
boarding call and game misconduct for a hit on Patrick Kaleta.
"I thought our special teams compete wasn't good enough," said Buffalo coach
Lindy Ruff. "I was angry with Tim, I was angry with the power play in general.
That's where the lack of compete came in."
The Sabres will try again to return to the postseason for the first time since
2007, which also marks their last division title. Buffalo can punch its
playoff ticket with a win tonight, or it can also get in with a point as well
as losses this evening by Atlanta to Carolina and the New York Rangers to
Regulation losses tonight by both the Thrashers and Rangers would also get the
Sabres into the playoffs regardless of the outcome of this contest.
The Sabres should be in good shape considering tonight's opponent. Buffalo has
won all three meetings this year versus Tampa Bay by a 14-7 margin as well as
10 of the last 12 matchups overall.
The Sabres, who have won two straight and eight of the last 10 in the series
at Buffalo, will try to sweep their four-game set with the Lightning for the
third time in five seasons. They most recently accomplished the feat in
Pominville had a hat trick and Miller made 23 saves in the most recent
meeting, a 6-2 Sabres win at Tampa on March 18.
Antero Niittymaki allowed five goals on 27 shots for the Lightning in that
loss, but he put forth a brilliant outing the last time Tampa Bay took the
ice. On Thursday versus Boston, Niittymaki made a club record 47 saves in a
5-3 victory that featured two goals each from Steven Stamkos and Paul
Stamkos has three goals in three games and moved into a tie for the most in
the league with 45, with the top pick of the 2008 draft joining Pittsburgh's
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin of Washington at the top of the list.
The win was big for the Lightning's playoff hopes as they moved within six
points of the Bruins for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with eight
games to play.
"It's tough to play in this building but if you stick together and stick to
the game plan then you have a chance," said Tampa head coach Rick Tocchet."
Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, who won their
500th game in franchise history while facing a club record 50 shots. However,
defenseman David Hale (lower body) and Kurtis Foster (head), as well as
forward Steve Downie (right knee) all exited the game early due to injury and
are questionable for tonight.
The Lightning won the opener of a four-game road trip but picked up just their
second win in their last eight as the guest.
03/27 10:31:16 ET