NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Tuesday, April 5th
(All times eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (44-24-11) at Buffalo Sabres (40-29-10), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Sabres will try to help their postseason chances by
cooling off the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning when the clubs meet tonight at
Buffalo's HSBC Arena.
The Sabres enter today's action as the eighth seed out of eight playoff spots
in the East and is one point behind Montreal and the New York Rangers. Buffalo
is also three ahead of Carolina. The Canadiens host Chicago tonight, while the
Hurricanes and Rangers are idle.
Buffalo, Carolina and Montreal have three games left in the regular season and
New York has two.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has won five straight games and has already clinched a
playoff berth. With 99 points, the Lightning are one behind Pittsburgh for the
conference's fourth seed and Tampa can finish no worse than fifth in the East.
Like Tampa, the Penguins, who are hosting New Jersey tonight, have three games
left in the regular season.
The Lightning's chances at a division title are fading, however, as the Bolts
are four points behind Washington for the Southeast lead. The Capitals can
clinch their fourth straight division title with a win tonight in Toronto or a
regulation loss by Tampa.
While Tampa was busy picking up its fifth straight win Sunday in Chicago, the
Sabres were able to record an important victory of their own in Raleigh. Marc-
Andre Gragnani scored his first NHL goal with 2:04 remaining in overtime to
lift the Buffalo Sabres to a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in a battle
between the playoff-hopeful clubs.
In the extra session, Nathan Gerbe worked the puck to the left point and
Gragnani, playing in his 12th career NHL game, snapped a wrist shot that found
its way behind Cam Ward after deflecting off the stick of a Carolina player.
Chris Butler supplied the other goal for Buffalo, which has won five of its
last seven games.
Jhonas Enroth started again in place of the injured Ryan Miller and turned
away 35 shots for the Sabres. Enroth has started the last three games for
Buffalo, as Miller, last year's Vezina Trophy winner, is sidelined with an
upper-body injury. Miller is expected to sit out again this evening, but the
club is hopeful he can return before the end of the regular season.
Sabres forwards Mike Grier (knee) and Jochen Hecht (upper body) are
questionable for today's contest.
Buffalo is playing the first of two straight on home ice tonight, as the
Sabres will host Philadelphia on Friday before closing their regular season
this Saturday in Columbus. The Sabres are 19-16-4 as the host club this
The Lightning earned their fifth consecutive win with a 2-0 victory Sunday
evening in Chicago. Mike Smith stopped 31 shots for his first shutout of the
season, while Vincent Lecavalier and Nate Thompson provided the goals.
Regular goaltender Dwayne Roloson is expected to get the start in net tonight,
but Lecavalier is questionable after getting hit in the face with a high stick
on Sunday. Lecavalier was cut near the eye by the blade of Chicago forward
Michael Frolik's stick in the second period and did not return to the game.
However, a Buffalo-area eye doctor examined Lecavalier on Monday and no
structural damage was detected in his right eye. Tampa's captain is considered
Tampa defenseman Eric Brewer is also questionable with a lower-body injury.
The Lightning have won their last three road games and are capping a three-
game swing tonight. Tampa is 20-13-6 as the visiting team this season.
Tampa Bay has won two of three meetings with the Sabres this year, but Buffalo
recorded a 7-4 victory the last time the clubs met on Feb. 8 in Florida. The
Sabres have taken seven of 10 overall in the series and the Lightning have
dropped five out of seven in western New York.
04/05 10:52:13 ET