Lightning look to get back on track vs. skidding Sabres

National Sports

Considering the past few days that they’ve had, the Atlantic Division’s Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres will just be happy to get back to playing hockey.

On Tuesday, the clubs will face each other for the second time this season in western New York.

Postponements have been a hot topic for each team over the last few days, starting with the Sabres’ game scheduled for Saturday night in Montreal and concluding with Tampa Bay’s postponed outing at New Jersey on Monday.

With attendance restrictions being put in place in Canada, the NHL moved Buffalo’s game against the Canadiens to another date — likely during next month’s segment dedicated to the Olympics.

The league’s hope is that Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions will lessen and more fans will be allowed back inside.

As for the Lightning, their match was postponed Sunday afternoon, which kept them from having to square off with the Devils and then speed up to Buffalo for Tuesday’s game in a back-to-back scenario.

In the first meeting in Buffalo, the Sabres routed the Lightning 5-1 on Oct. 25.

First-year coach Don Granato felt his team was in awe of the defending two-time Stanley Cup champions and said he had a discussion with the players about it.

“Yeah, I had a message for them,” Granato said. “I didn’t like what was transpiring and felt we needed to respond. You certainly have to respect what they have over there, but there’s something to giving them too much respect, and that can’t happen. Can’t happen.”

Victor Olofsson scored twice in the win, and goalie Craig Anderson made 35 saves as the Sabres beat Tampa Bay for the first time in Buffalo since Nov. 13, 2018.

Granato’s squad improved to 4-1-1 to start the season, but the Sabres are just 6-17-5 since — including a current five-game losing streak (0-3-2).

Buffalo is 6-10-2 at home while the Lightning are 11-5-2 on the road.

In their most recent outing Saturday at home against the Boston Bruins, the Lightning played poorly in a 5-2 loss.

That has not been the case lately for the Lightning, who had a nine-game home point streak broken in the defeat to their division rival.

Center Brayden Point returned from an upper-body injury that kept him out most of December and has been his old self.

The shifty spark plug has six goals and four assists in those seven games back. In all, he has hit the net nine times in his past 11 outings.

In the Boston defeat, the Lightning did not play well defensively and missed a few great scoring opportunities on the power play.

During one pivotal moment in the second period while trailing 3-0, Tampa Bay’s power-play unit could not cash in on 47 seconds of five-on-three play and went 0-for-4 on the night.

“We just didn’t finish,” team captain Steven Stamkos said. “We either whiffed or didn’t put it in the net. It’s a timing thing. I think we were getting some good looks, they just aren’t going in. If they go in, it’s a different story.

“We’ve got to capitalize on the opportunities. Just didn’t have the finish tonight.”

The teams will play each other for the final time in Tampa on April 10.

–Field Level Media

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