December 03, 2014

The previously high-scoring Tampa Bay Lightning are slumping offensively, though a difficult early schedule hasn't done them any favors.

Playing the Buffalo Sabres for already the fourth and final time Tuesday night at home, though, could continue to provide a temporary elixir for their struggles.

Tampa Bay (7-7-2) has played a league-high 11 road games. Six of its next seven are at home - where it's just 2-3-0 - while Buffalo's five road contests are tied for the fewest in the NHL.

The Lightning averaged 3.4 goals through their first eight contests but have managed 11 during a 2-5-1 stretch, scoring one or none in six of those games. Plus, Tampa Bay has wasted strong defensive efforts during that span, surrendering 15 goals in the eight games.

The Lightning lost 1-0 at Minnesota on Saturday, getting shut out for the third time despite 31 shots on goal.

"We created a lot of chances," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "(Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk) made some unbelievable saves. You can't take those away from him. However he saves them, he did it. Some of them, we definitely want back. It's just the way it goes for us right now."

The loss of Ondrej Palat won't help, as the left wing will miss three to five weeks with a lower-body injury after leaving in the second period. Palat's seven points are tied for fourth on the club.

"When you see somebody like him go off the way he did, it's never encouraging," coach Jon Cooper said. " ... You don't want to lose anybody, but he's a big part of our team."

Nearly half of Tampa Bay's victories have come against the Sabres (6-8-0), whom it's outscored 10-3 in sweeping three meetings despite being outshot 88-75. The Lightning own a 25-5 edge in goals during a seven-game series winning streak.

Center Tyler Johnson has four goals and nine assists in his last 12 meetings.

Buffalo has won three of four, the only loss coming by a 4-1 score at home to Tampa Bay on Thursday. Rasmus Ristolainen scored his second goal with 16.8 seconds left in Saturday's 3-2 win over Vancouver, while Jack Eichel had two assists for his first multipoint game.

Linus Ullmark stopped 35 shots after getting pulled from Thursday's defeat after surrendering three goals on 11 shots in the first period.

"It was pretty exciting," Ristolainen said. "But two points are a big thing for us."

Eichel has four points in his last four games after recording three in his first 10, but has managed one point in the three meetings with the Lightning.

Ryan O'Reilly leads the Sabres with 13 points, though he's gone without one in a season-high three straight games.

Ben Bishop has won eight straight starts against Buffalo while posting a 1.48 goals-against average. He's lost his last five overall starts despite a 1.63 GAA.

Nikita Kucherov is pointless in five career home games against Buffalo, though he has four goals and two assists in his last six matchups overall.

You May Like