Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Outlook: Buffalo Sabres vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning will meet four times in the upcoming NHL season, with a pair of meetings at each arena.

The Buffalo Sabres will get a first look at the Lecavalier-less Lightning (try saying that a few times fast!) on October 8, when Tampa Bay visits Buffalo for the first time. The teams will meet in Tampa Bay 18 days later, and then will meet twice – one in each venue – in March.

Last season, the Lightning and Sabres met three times, with Buffalo winning a pair of the games. The teams first met on February 26 in Tampa Bay, when Buffalo took a 2-1 win via goals from Cody Hodgson and Tyler Myers. Hodgson had a goal and an assist, while Thomas Vanek had a pair of assists. Steven Stamkos scored for the Lightning, while Canisius College grad Cory Conacher had an assist.

Next up was another 2-1 win… this time, reversed. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis scored for Tampa Bay, with Buffalo’s lone goal coming from Jordan Leopold. St. Louis and Stamkos each had a goal and assist, while Conacher had another assist.

Finally, the Sabres took a 3-1 decision at home on April 14. Goals came from Tyler Ennis, Jochen Hecht and Kevin Porter, while Benoit Pouliot scored for the Lightning. Jhonas Enroth got first star of the game, as he stopped 32 of 33 shots faced. Oh, and get this – Stamkos and Conacher were both pointless in this game, the final meeting of the lockout-shortened season.

Obviously, one of the big stories surrounding the Lightning this coming season will be the loss of their captain. How will it affect players like Martin St. Louis (who could be named captain), Victor Hedman and  Steven Stamkos? Will their offensive production only increase? Things are certainly about to change, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be watching closely. Stamkos is entering his sixth NHL season (has it really been that long already?!?) and as much as he’s already been a powerhouse, it’ll likely only improve in the future – which means he’ll be even more dangerous against Buffalo than he already was.

In free agency, the Lightning added former Detroit Red Wing Valtteri Filppula. This will be his first go-around in the Eastern Conference, and it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts.

Players to Watch

  • TAMPA BAY: Watch out for Stamkos – always. Victor Hedman and Martin St. Louis are others that Sabres fans should keep their eye on. Stamkos has 18 points in 19 games against the Sabres. Hedman is just an extremely skilled player to look out for; the same can be said of St. Louis, who has 39 points in 46 games against Buffalo in his career.
  • BUFFALO: Leading the way for Buffalo is forward Thomas Vanek, who has 36 points in 31 career NHL games against the Lightning. Cody Hodgson has averaged a point per game against Tampa Bay (five games played), and so has Brian Flynn (2 games). Finally, Tyler Ennis has scored seven points in 11 games played versus Tampa Bay in his career.

Meetings This Season

  • October 8 @ BUF
  • October 26 @ TBL
  • March 6 @ TBL
  • March 29 @ BUF

Tags: Buffalo Sabres Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Sonny Chiba

    A couple/three points, in rebuttal to your article:

    Vincent Lecavalier wore the “C” in 2000-2001 and was then stripped of it by John Tortorella, who named Dave Andreychuck captain. Andreychuk’s tenure (2002-2006) lasted until the first season after the lockout, when he retired.

    The Bolts then named Tim Taylor captain from 2006 through 2008, whereupon (once more) Vinny reclaimed the “C”. So, Lecavalier’s captaincy was not an uninterrupted stretch, from 1999, onward.

    Secondly – and.much to the chagrin of many Lightning fans – Stevie Yzerman traded the overachieving Cory Conacher (and a 2013 4th-round draft pick) to the Ottawa Senators (at the trade deadline) to acquire goalie Ben Bishop. So it’s highly unlikely the Sabres will face Conacher when playing against Tampa, this season.

    Furthermore (and not to be argumentative) the current buzz around the Bolts (among fans and in the media) revolves around goaltending (and a porous defense which contributed to the league’s 5th-worst goals-against) and whether Jon Cooper can coax a better two-way game out of a roster that can light the lamp with the league’s best, and yet remain unable to translate that explosiveness (ranked 5th-best) into a post-season berth, because of their tendency to surrender an equal number the other way.

    And, finally, the anticipation surrounding Jonathan Drouin’s upcoming training camp – whether he can make the team immediately, and what his rookie season might see him accomplish, if he does so – will continue to be a prime topic of discussion, leading to puck-drop on opening night; and well beyond.

    To a greater degree, Vinny’s compliance-buyout has become an afterthought to a fanbase that had foreseen and gained an advanced acceptance of such a seeming inevitability (and in some cases even openly called for it) over the past two seasons. Many have understood that his onerous contract was increasingly becoming a handicap to the Lightning’s cap-flexibility and their (future) hopes for a greater competitiveness. Folks have become tired of watching the Bolts lose.

    It’s hasn’t been so much about the loss of Vinny as it has been about “winning” – Winning fixes everything.

    • Melissa Kania

      Yeah, that was a slip-up on my part regarding Conacher. I think I just like to deny that he’s with Ottawa now, haha, so it wasn’t even in my head that he isn’t on Tampa Bay anymore.

      I completely understand the Bolts fans wanting to put the Lecavalier thing in the back of things and move on to other subjects such as goaltending and defense, but for me – it’s still going to be the first thing I think of when I think about the Lightning. I suppose it’s like when Briere/Drury left. It’s been how many years, and yet… people still talk about it.