Preview: Lightning feeling confident as road trip begins in Buffalo
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
The Tampa Bay Lightning keep rallying and scoring on the power play, and most of all, they keep winning.
The NHL’s top team looks to keep rolling as it visits the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. The two teams will meet for the second time at KeyBank Center; Buffalo won 2-1 on Nov. 13 behind a 29-save outing by goalie Carter Hutton.
The Lightning won the teams’ most recent meeting, recording a 5-4 home victory on Nov. 29.
Tampa Bay’s latest win — the Lightning’s ninth in 10 games — came on a third-period comeback against Carolina on Thursday night. The Lightning got past the Hurricanes 3-1 to win for the ninth straight time at home.
The home winning streak is tied for the second longest in franchise-history, trailing only a 10-game run in the 2014-15 season. The Lightning also improved to 12-0-0 against the Metropolitan Division, and they are 20-2-1 in their past 23.
Brayden Point has been at the point and on point during the Lightning’s surge.
Down 1-0 after two periods Thursday, Tampa Bay tied it on Ondrej Palat‘s power-play marker. Point later squared up a pass from Nikita Kucherov and blistered a one-timer for the lead on a power play. He later clinched the victory with an empty-netter for his 28th tally, capping his second consecutive three-point night.
“I think it’s just we have a confidence in our dressing room that no lead is insurmountable,” Point said. “Obviously we don’t want to be in that spot. I think we just have a confidence that we’re not out of it and we stick with it, and tonight it paid off.”
Point, 22, has been as good lately as he has been all season. The center has six goals over his past five games and 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in the past 11 contests.
Buffalo welcomed back standout Jack Eichel to the lineup after a three-game absence on Friday night against the Hurricanes, but the Sabres did not exactly flounder with the former Boston University star sidelined due to an upper-body injury.
In fact, Buffalo coach Phil Housley liked the play of Tage Thompson so much during the 2-1-0 stretch without Eichel that he put the 6-foot-6, second-year forward on the top line at right wing in place of Sam Reinhart to even out the lines’ scoring.
Thompson, 21, played beside Eichel in Buffalo’s 4-3 loss at Raleigh, N.C., against the Hurricanes, who were playing the second game of a back-to-back set.
“I just thought Tage has been playing very good hockey the last 10 games, particularly the last five,” Housley said. “He’s creating a lot of offense, using his speed, using his shot, been reliable defensively, and (we) just put him up there with Jack to just get some balance.”
Buffalo left winger Jeff Skinner, who scored 204 goals in eight seasons with Carolina, was voted into the All-Star Game on Friday as one of the “Last Men In,” representing the Atlantic Division.
The Hurricanes honored Skinner, who played in his 289th game at PNC Arena and first as a visitor, with a video tribute in the first period, highlighting the time spent with the club by the 2010-11 Calder Trophy winner (rookie of the year).
Skinner scored his 30th goal of the season Friday on a power-play tip-in late in the first period — marking his fourth 30-goal season. He is just seven off his career high set two years ago. However, the Sabres slipped to 3-6-1 in their past 10 games.