Game Preview: Buffalo Sabres vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning (16-15-10) travel to the 716 to take on the Buffalo Sabres (26-11-4) . The Sabres have won the only contest between these two teams this season.
The Lightning are currently in the midst of a 1 game winning streak to compliment their already up-and-down season. Their last game was a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, a very very formidable opponent. This is an impressive win because the Penguins are a very solid team that many think will go quite far in the playoffs. For example, Pittsburgh has 55 points and are second in the Atlantic Conference. To juxtapose, the Sabres are first in the Northeast with 56 points. For a team that has 42 points (good enough for second in the Southeast), a win over Pittsburgh is great for Tampa. Marty St. Louis, Steve Downie and the man with the greatest name in history, Zenon Konopka each netted goals to defeat the Penguins. Mike Smith made 25 saves on 26 shots to seal the victory for the Bolts.
The Sabres, however, are quite a different story. Why is that? Because we literally refuse to lose. LITERALLY. The Sabres have won 4 games straight. Three of these 4 wins were come from behind victories. The Sabres had back to back games where they were down 3-0 and scored 4 unanswered to win. These wins were against Pittsburgh and Atlanta (in OT) respectively. Their last victory, however, was a 1-0 defensive victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Tim Connolly (we’ll talk more about him later) scored the lone goal in a game that Ryan Miller stole from Montreal (what else is new).
It’s worth noting that both Buffalo and Tampa have played the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens within their last three games.
Let’s see who’s hot and who’s not, shall we?
Tim Connolly: Timmy C has been on a tear as of late. Like a real tear. He has destroyed pretty much every goalie and defense in his path. In the past four games (ya know, the ones we have won), Timmy has 7 points. He has 4 goals in 4 games while adding 3 helpers. That’s the Connolly we know and love. If Timmy can stay healthy, and I probably just cursed him, he will be a force to be reckoned with for the entire season and could be the offensive spark this team needs. Oh, did I forget to mention that he has the team lead in goals, assists and points? What a beast (Marshawn Lynch would be jealous). Look for Connolly to continue his torrid pace tonight against a decent defense that is starting to come into it’s own.
Jochen Hecht: I never thought I’d be doing this but Hecht is playing quite well as of late. He has 3 goals and 2 assists in the last 4 games. His last point was a helper in the last game on Tim Connolly’s goal. Connolly and Hecht have been clicking pretty well so watch for them to take the entire team to the next level. They can’t do it, however, without the help of the next guy:
Ryan Miller: I’m going to put Ryan Miller in the “hot” section until he has a poor game. Which hasn’t happened in the recent past. And by recent past I mean past 4 months. Also, congrats to Ryan on making the US National Men’s Hockey Team that will compete in 2010 Winter Olympics. Good luck in the Olympics and good luck tonight, Ryan! Keep up the good work.
The “Malone-Stamkos-St. Louis” Trifecta of Awesome… er… Line: Tampa’s first line has been rock solid as of late. This line has accounted for 2 goals and 2 assists in the last 2 games. Steven Stamkos is leading the team in goals with 21 and Ryan Malone is right behind him at 19. Marty St. Louis is leading the team in assists with 36 and Stevie Stamkos is in third with 18. Points, however, are the kicker here. Marty has the team lead with 45, Stammer is in second with 39 and Ryan Malone is in fourth with 35. This line is on quite a roll as of late. Watch for Lindy Ruff to try and line match this line with a pair of shutdown D-Men like Rivet, Lydman or even Butler.
Nathan Paetsch: Ok, that was mostly a joke. The only reason he’s “not” is because he’s on waivers and that pretty much just blows (for him, mostly). See, I have a sense of humor too (not really, I’m actually a communist robot who hates puppies, children and even Rick Astley).
Derek Roy: Although Roysie has has a good season (2nd on the team in goals, assists and points) he is not playing well as of late. Like really not well. He only has one point in the last four games. For Roy to be effective, we need him to constantly contribute to the offense in order to keep us winning. He needs to throw as many pucks at the net as possible and needs to stop trying to make the perfect play. When it comes to this Sabres team, the simple play is always the best play. Roy can get back on his feet by making plays and scoring points. I have faith (kinda).
James Wright: I know it’s a weird choice but it’s true. Wright was a top six forward for Tampa when Alex Tanguay was in a slump. If he can pot a couple points tonight, alongside his buddy Zenon Kenopka (god I love that name), he could be a force to be reckoned with yet again.
Mike Smith gets the start tonight yet again for the Lightning. He’s been playing pretty well as of late but tends to crack when is peppered with shots. Time to starta pepperin’.
The man of the hour, Ryan Miller, gets the start for Buffalo. And why wouldn’t he? He is coming off of a shutout and 4 straight wins. Plus, he wakes up in the morning feeling like P-Diddy.
Game is on at 7:00 on MSG.