Lightning-Sabres Preview

Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres are trying to

make a push into playoff contention.

Both teams, though, still have a lot of work remaining.

The surging squads meet Saturday in Buffalo, where the Sabres

will try to extend a pair of point streaks at the expense of the

Lightning.

Buffalo (24-24-6) is currently in 11th place in the East, eight

points behind Toronto for the eighth and final playoff spot with

two teams to leapfrog. The Sabres picked up two vital points Friday

night, rallying from a two-goal, third-period deficit to post a 3-2

shootout victory over the Dallas Stars.

Nathan Gerbe netted the winning shootout tally for the Sabres,

who have a 10-game point streak at home (6-0-4) as well as points

in six straight games (5-0-1) overall. Thomas Vanek ended a 10-game

goalless drought with his team-high 20th tally, and Derek Roy

forced overtime by scoring with 39 seconds to play.

“We need character wins like that, and it’s a big two points for

us,” Roy said. We’ve just got to keep this thing going.

Everybody’s on the same page and we’ve got to keep the momentum

going.”

Vanek’s goal was also Buffalo’s first power-play marker since

Jan. 21, ending a five-game drought in which the Sabres failed to

convert 12 opportunities.

Tampa Bay picked up a point for the eighth time in nine games

(6-1-2) with a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on

Thursday and enters this game in 13th place – 10 points back of the

Maple Leafs. The Lightning rallied from a goal down to take a 3-2

lead in the second period, only to allow a tying goal with 9:47

left in regulation and the winning tally by ex-Lightning forward

Brad Richards 2:37 into the extra session.

“We came in against the No. 1 team in the conference and we made

it hard for them again,” Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said. “We’ve

only lost one regulation game in nine games, so we are playing

well. We’re making it hard. We’re fighting.”

Steven Stamkos, who notched his NHL-leading 36th goal in the

loss, has scored in three consecutive games and has four goals and

four assists during a five-game point streak. He has a goal and an

assist in Tampa Bay’s two wins versus Buffalo this season, and five

goals and eight assists in 13 lifetime games against the

Sabres.

The Lightning’s Mathieu Garon, who has gone 5-0-2 in his last

seven starts, likely will get his third crack at the Sabres this

season after turning aside 60 of 63 shots while winning the

previous two – including a 21-save shutout Oct. 22. Prior to this

season, however, Garon had gone 1-7-0 with a 3.61 ERA in six starts

and eight lifetime games versus Buffalo.

The Lightning have not defeated the Sabres three straight times

since March 14-Dec. 6, 2003.