The offensive-minded Buffalo Sabres will complete a set of back-to-back road games when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
Buffalo lost 5-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday in Raleigh, N.C. Jacob Bryson, Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Dahlin — who has seven goals and eight assists in 11 games — scored for the Sabres, but they surrendered a hat trick to the Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho.
The Sabres are averaging 5.7 goals per game this week, having routed the visiting Detroit Red Wings 8-3 on Monday and topped the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 on Wednesday.
The centerpiece of coach Don Granato’s club lately is Tage Thompson, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound center from Phoenix.
He has blossomed into the kind of pivot Buffalo thought it was getting when he was acquired from St. Louis in the July 1, 2018, trade that sent Sabres star Ryan O’Reilly to the Blues.
Centering a line that features wingers Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch, the 25-year-old Thompson crafted his best numbers a season ago, setting career highs in goals (38), assists (30) and games played (78).
The organization apparently saw enough: Buffalo inked the giant pivot to a seven-year, $50 million contract extension this summer.
On Monday in a hellacious Halloween performance, Thompson became just the third player in NHL history to produce six points on the spooky holiday, joining Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky (1989) and Bobby Clarke (1976).
“I think the confidence has been there from the start of the season,” said Thompson, who had a hat trick and three assists. “I think maybe the first three games I wasn’t getting enough shots, maybe being a little too cute. I just tried to simplify and get pucks to the net, whether it’s a clear lane to the net or not.”
Skinner also potted his 300th career goal in the eight-goal outpouring.
On Friday, Sabres goalie Craig Anderson stopped 28 shots. Eric Comrie is slated to be in Buffalo’s crease against the Lightning.
After Tampa Bay fell 4-3 in a shootout to the Hurricanes on Thursday, all the talk was about the amount of rubber goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy faced.
Carolina produced 55 shots in all, with Vasilevskiy stopping 52 of them. The Russian backstop became the fifth active goalie to post multiple 50-save outings.
“If that’s happening to you, you’re not playing very well,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “And if that’s happening, you’re turning the puck over at an alarming rate. And that’s what we did.
“That’s the product of playing poorly. … If you’re not committed to your game, that’s what happens, plain and simple.”
In taking a defeat for the first time in four matches, Tampa Bay lost Nicholas Paul, an aggressive, energy-producing forward who scored to put the home side up 2-1 halfway through the contest. The Mississauga, Ontario, native missed most of the match’s second half.
Paul was a valuable piece acquired from the Senators at the March trade deadline and contributed greatly in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final against the Colorado Avalanche.
He skated Friday morning in a regular practice jersey along with defenseman Victor Hedman, who has missed the past two games due to an upper-body injury.
Dating back to Nov. 29, 2018, the Lightning have won nine of their past 10 meetings with the Sabres.
–Field Level Media