The Lightning will host the Buffalo Sabres tonight in game two of their three game homestand that concludes Monday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes. The Lightning will look to extend their home point streak to six with a third straight win tonight.
This is the second of four meetings between these two teams with the Bolts holding a 1-0 lead in the season series backed by a 2-1 win over the Sabres on November 20th in Buffalo. The teams will meet once more in Tampa (February 8th) and conclude the series in Buffalo (April 5th).
The Lightning will be seeking their first win over Buffalo at home in almost two years – the last coming on January 21st, 2009.
The Bolts (17-10-4) enter tonight’s game having defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 2-1 in the shootout on Wednesday night. Sean Bergenheim netted the games tying goal and Victor Hedman scored the winner in the fourth round of the shootout, giving the Lightning their first shootout win. Mike Smith had 27 saves picking up his first win since November 24th in making his first start since December 2nd.
The win was the Bolts eighth consecutive over the Thrashers and gained points for the fifth straight time at home to set a franchise record 38 points through 31 games. A win tonight and losses by the Capitals and Thrashers would move the Bolts into a tie for the division lead with Washington.
Tonight’s game features four of the league’s top power-play performers in goal scorers Steven Stamkos (1st – 11 PPG) and Thomas Vanek (4th – 6 PPG) and as well assist leaders Martin St. Louis (1st – 17 A) and Derek Roy (3rd – 11 A)
Buffalo (13-15-4) enters the game fresh off a 6-2 thumping by the Florida Panthers on Friday night. The road loss was the Sabres fifth in their last six road games and are 6-6-3 on the road this season. They’ve had success at the St. Pete Times Forum winning two straight and nine of their last 10 games and has won six of eight and 11 out of the last 14 encounters despite the 2-1 loss in November.
Derek Roy and Tim Connolly scored for the Sabres against the Panthers and Ryan Miller who started in goal was pulled after the first period having allowed four goals on 10 shots. The four goals in the first period were the most allowed by Buffalo in any period this season.
Miller had started the nine games following a two-game absence with a groin injury… of which one included the Bolts 2-1 win in Buffalo on November 20th against Patrick Lalime. Despite making 20 saves in that game, Lalime took the loss.
Lalime is 0-4-0 this season, hasn’t posted a victory since turning away 22 shots in a 7-1 home win over the Lightning last March 27th.
According the BuffaloNews.com Sabres Edge, Ryan Miller (11-8-3, 2.39 GAA and .918 save percentage) will start in goal for the Sabres. Miller is 16-3-0 with a 2.71 GAA career wise against the Bolts.
Mike Smith will make his second consecutive start tonight and looks to defeat the Sabres for the second time this season. Smith made 29 saves for the Bolts win last month to improve to 2-3-1 with a 3.20 GAA versus Buffalo.
Lightning Nutz and Boltz
Ryan Malone has four goals and 10 points in his last eight games.
Steven Stamkos comes in with three goals and four points in his last three games
Randy Jones is riding a career-high-tying four-game point streak with as many points in that span
Brett Clark ranks 4th among league defensemen with 6 goals, 5 of which have come on PP leading all NHL defenseman
Teddy Purcell has four goals and 12 points in his past 13 games
Nate Thompson is expected to appear in his 150th game played tonight
The Bolts entered December 17th with the NHL’s 8th-best penalty-kill percentage at 83.9, while it ranks 3rd-best in the NHL with a power-play of 23.7%. The Lightning has also scored the NHL’s highest total of PPGs with 32 and has scored a PPG in 6 of the last 10 games, including 3 of the last 4 at home. In those last 4 at the Forum, the Lightning has gone 6-21 (28.6%) with the man advantage
The Lightning despite having played just 12 games at home this season own the league’s 2nd fewest regulation losses with 2. They have allowed just 34 goals at home, the 6th fewest in the NHL and have given up just 6 power-play goals at home which is the 2nd least in the league
The Bolts have scored 15 PPGs at home, which is 4th most in the NHL and they have the NHL’s best home power-play at 27.8% and the 3rd best home penalty-kill at 87.8%
Mattias Ohlund is 2 shy of 250 career assists
Steven Stamkos needs 2 goals to reach 100 in his career
Vincent Lecavalier is 2 points shy of 750
Derek Roy has one goal and six assists in the midst of a four-game streak
After killing only 78.7 percent of penalties and converting on only 11.1 percent of power plays through the first 20 games of the season, Buffalo has turned its special teams play around. In their last 12 games, the Sabres have gone 11-for-44 on the power play (25.0%) and have killed 46 of 51 penalties (90.2%). They are fifth in the league on the penalty-kill at home (87.7%).
The Sabres close their 10th of a league-high 22 sets of back-to-back games tonight after a 6-2 loss at Florida last night. So far this season, the Sabres are 5-4-1 in the first game and 3-5-1 in the second.
Lightning: Steve Downie (Ankle sprain; IR-out indefinitely), Nate Thompson (Knee; day-to-day) and Mattias Ritola (Inner ear; day-to-day)
Sabres: Shaone Morrisson (Concussion; IR-out indefinitely)
Lightning Upcoming Games
12/20/2010 vs. Carolina Hurricanes – 7:30 PM SUN (HD)
12/22/2010 @ New York Islanders – 7:00 PM SUN (HD)
12/23/2010 @ New York Rangers – 7:00 PM SUN (HD)
12/26/2010 @ Atlanta Thrashers -7:00 PM SUN (HD)
12/28/2010 vs. Boston Bruins – 7:30 PM TSN2 (HD), VERSUS (HD)
12/30/2010 vs. Montreal Canadiens – 7:30 PM (SUN (HD), RDS (HD)
From now until January 3rd, fans will have the opportunity to cast their votes to pick part of the 2011 NHL All-Star teams via on-line. Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier are on the NHL All-Star fan ballot. Click here to send Stammer, Marty and Vinny to the All-Star Game.
For more info: Tampa Bay Lightning, 2010 NHL All-Star Game, Atlanta Thrashers
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