The Buffalo Sabres conclude their wildly successful road trip. So far this season, the mighty Blue and Gold have avoided the loss column away from the First Niagara Center. Like their previous Florida opponent, the Sabres split the season series with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season.
The cards are not lining up for the Tampa Bay team that is struggling to get things going this season. While the Sabres are floating on cloud nine after two exceptional performances from Ryan Miller who is playing at Olympic caliber form – the Tampa squad is being back stopped by former Sabre backup Dwayne Roloson who is carrying a 5.09 GAA into tonights game, and a 0-7-1 lifetime record against the Buffalo Sabres. With Thomas Vanek continuing to shine offensively, people in Sunrise Florida might be seeing more red, as they get the atmospheric bounce of the goal lights in Tampa tonight.
If you thought Thomas Vanek was hot before tonights game, expect him to keep adding fuel to the fire tonight, as he has found great amounts of success against the Lightning. 22 goals in 24 games, to include two hat tricks. He will again lead the charge for the Buffalo Sabres. The current skid the Lightning are on has them giving up 23 goals, so it will give Thomas Vanek the chance to pad his already nice stat line.
Despite Buffalo and Tampa Bay split four meetings a year ago, but the Sabres have won 19 of 24 and 20 of the last 26 contests in this series. Buffalo has won three of four and 10 of its last 12 trips to St. Pete Times Forum.
Expectations on the Sabres are going to be to continue to increase their presence all over the ice surface. Against Florida Ville Leino started to show why he was brought to Buffalo. Hopefully that was him hitting his stride and getting his legs under him. The more ice time he gets, the more chances he has to get the puck to someone in great scoring position.
Brad Boyes also showed some life against Florida. If he wants to remain in Blue and Gold, he is going to have to start putting numbers on the board. Not a guy to head into the dirty areas, if Tampa stays away from physical play in front of the net for fear of reprisal from the referees, you might see more of Boyes taking the puck to the net.
Buffalo’s success has come from a prolific offense, and top notch goaltending. Tampa needs to stay away from the penalty box if they are going to find success.
Tampa is one among many that is trying to change the culture of the organization into a winning franchise. They have been there before, having won the Cup back in 2004 just before the lockout.