Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres PreGame Skate: Tampa Bay Lightning

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s back down to Florida for the upsurging Buffalo Sabres.  Tonight’s opponent; the Tampa Bay Lightning – a team faltering much like the Sabres did. The difference between Buffalo and Tampa?  The Sabres may have turned it around in enough time to make a run at the playoffs, Tampa will be playing out the season.

Tampa’s new Head Coach will not be behind the bench tonight, they will leave tonight’s game up to their interim head coach.  Guy Boucher was removed as head coach when the Tampa Bay Lightning were left fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference.  Tampa has fallen into the 14th spot in the Eastern Conference – and sit just three points ahead of their interstate rivals – the Florida Panthers for last place in the East, and the league.

After what feels like a lengthy two days off since the last time they hit the ice, the Buffalo Sabres are still sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference. At this moment they are just three points behind the New York Rangers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  While the New York Rangers have a game in hand on the Buffalo Sabres still, most of the Eastern Conference has now played more games than the Sabres, making the up hill climb not look so bad.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of wrong with this Buffalo Sabres team, but things are starting to turn around.  One a three game winning streak, a literal breath of fresh air and a second successful run through Florida could put this team in a better position. With just eight days before the trade deadline – a surging Buffalo Sabres should not lead Buffalo Sabres management into a false sense of security that there are not changes that need to be made with the core group of players.  Fans have been clamoring for changes in each of the last three seasons when the team started poorly.  A winning Buffalo Sabres team is going to give more confidence to players, whose performance will go up, thus getting more in return for those pieces. Still looking for a firesale?  It is possible, depending on how far the team wants to dismantle what it has, and how long they think it will take to rebuild.

The Buffalo Sabres will not have to contend with Vincent Lecavalier, but they still have leading goal scorer Steve Stamkos to deal with.  With seven healthy defenseman, Buffalo should be ready to rise to the challenge.

Andrej Sekera should be ready to return to the lineup tonight, and that gives interim head coach Ron Rolston options – does he sit a veteran guy that hasn’t been playing well, or does he pullout prospect Mark Pysyk that has played well in the lineup since his callup from the Rochester Americans.  Pysyk has averaged about 15 minutes of ice time per game through his first four NHL games, and while he is a minus 2 – he has taken four shots and looked comfortable in an NHL sweater.

Game time is scheduled for 7:30 tonight.

Tags: Buffalo Sabres Tampa Bay Lightning

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