Tampa Bay Lightning at Buffalo Sabres game preview
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Tampa Bay Lightning have won without Steven Stamkos before. They’ll now have to do so again.
Tampa Bay’s superstar forward suffered a right knee injury in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings, and the team announced on Wednesday that he is out indefinitely.
"Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee during the team’s game against the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night and will remain out of the lineup indefinitely," Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement released by the team. "We are in the process of evaluating options for repair and rehabilitation and will release more information as it becomes available."
Tampa Bay’s first game without Stamkos will come against Buffalo on Thursday (7 p.m. Eastern).
Losing Stamkos for any length of time is obviously a significant blow for the Lightning (10-6-1). Through 17 games, Stamkos was third in the NHL in scoring with 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists).
"Our understanding is that this issue can be repaired and he can get back to full speed," Yzerman said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "It just takes some time. Obviously he’s disappointed. He’s going to work his rear end off and he’ll be back as good as ever."
The Lightning have had to persevere without their captain before. He played in only 37 games in 2013-14 due to a broken tibia and missed nearly all of the postseason last year after undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. The Lightning did well in his absence last year, making it all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals — where Stamkos returned — before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tampa Bay will have to lean on young standout Nikita Kucherov in Stamkos’ absence. The 23-year-old is coming off a 30-goal season and was second in the league in points with 21 (eight goals, 13 assists) heading into Wednesday’s action. He signed a new three-year, $14.3 million contract just before the start of the season.
Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop has never lost in regulation in Buffalo, holding a record of 8-0-1 in nine games along with a .938 save percentage.
This will be third game in a five-game road trip for the Lightning. Tampa Bay is in Columbus on Friday before facing Nashville on Monday.
The Sabres (5-7-4) hope that a four-game homestand will start to turn things around. Buffalo has a five-game losing streak and is coming off a particularly dispiriting 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.
Offense has been an issue for the Sabres all season. Buffalo is last in the league in scoring and has just 10 goals in its past eight games.
"We’ve got to keep pushing forward and we’ve got to keep finding ways to create the opportunities to get those goals," Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges said. "We had some opportunities (against St. Louis), we created some chances but we’re not burying them. We’ve got to keep digging."