Sword Play: Buffalo Sabres – Tampa Bay Lightning Preview

Timothy T. Ludwig – US PRESSWIRE

After what many would describe as an embarrassment on Saturday night against the New York Islanders, the Buffalo Sabres play the the first game of the first of two road swings through Florida this season.

Can a little sun turn the Sabres’ season around?

Tonight’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, have stumbled after starting the season 6-2-0, dropping seven of their last ten games. Despite that, the Bolts still find themselves in a tie for first in the Southeast Division with the Carolina Hurricanes, but are only in eighth in the Eastern Conference.

The Sabres come into tonight with 13 points, tied with the Washington Capitals for last in the Eastern Conference. If there is any hope for the Sabres this season, picking up two points against the eighth-place Lightning and the 13th place Florida Panthers on Thursday is an absolute must.

If the Sabres are going to come out on top tonight, they will need to jump on the Lightning in the offensive zone. The Lightning have struggled defensively as of late, surrendering four or more goals in each of the last nine games. The Sabres need to capitalize on the defensive zone lapses the Bolts have been prone to recently.

The Lightning will start Mathieu Garon, who has been steady this season in his backup role. Garon owned the Sabres last season, winning all three games he started and allowing only four goals on 87 shots over the three contests. The Sabres will need to exercise their Garon-based demons and put more than one or two pucks in the net to give themselves a good opportunity to come out with the two points tonight.

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Lightning rookie and Calder Trophy hopeful Cory Conacher has strong Buffalo ties, having played his college hockey at Canisius College in downtown Buffalo. Conacher scored 147 points in 129 career games as a Golden Griffin, including 62 goals. He then went on to lead the AHL in scoring last year with 80 points in 75 games for the Norfolk Admirals, which also won him the Les Cunningham Award which is given the the league’s MVP. Conacher has 17 points in 18 games with the Lightning this year.

Ryan Miller will get the start tonight for the Sabres.

Adam Pardy has been recalled by the Sabres from Rochester of the AHL to fill in for the injured Alex Sulzer. Sulzer will reportedly be out “for awhile” according to coach Ron Rolston. Jordan Leopold is still out with an upper-body injury.

Puck drop is at 7:30pm EST. This is the first meeting between the Lightning and Sabres this season.

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18

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