The trade deadline is over and the Buffalo Sabres (18-35-8) only have 21 games remaining on the schedule. Tonight they will face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning (34-23-5).
For the Buffalo Sabres – the roster looks vastly different, and a team already finding it difficult to score goals, finds itself with a goal scoring leaders Tyler Ennis (16) and Cody Hodgson (15) as the remaining offensive threats on the roster. In net they find themselves going to war with Jhonas Enroth as the starter, the heir apparent after the departure of Ryan Miller and new addition Michael Neuvirth formerly of the Washington Capitals.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it is a night of good news. After watching their second captain in two years get traded away by general manager Steve Yzerman, Steven Stamkos will return to the lineup tonight against the Sabres.
This is the third of four meetings this year between the two clubs, with the final meeting coming at the end of the month. Buffalo has only been able to pick up a single point against the Lightning, and overtime loss back in October. This is the 80th all time meeting between the two clubs. Buffalo has a 49-24-6 series record against Tampa Bay, but are 4-5-1 in their last ten games against the Lightning, and a 5-5 record in their last ten stops in Tampa Bay.
Stamkos’ return comes at an opportune time for Lightning fans as tonight starts a six-game homestand for the Tampa Bay. Buffalo will also be seeing another new face in a Lightning uniform as Rochester native Ryan Callahan will be playing in his first game in Florida since being acquired from the Rangers.
It is a 7:30 start tonight – so set your clocks and be ready.
Buffalo remains at the bottom of the league with just 44 points. Next closest team to them is the Edmonton Oilers with 50 points. While six points seems like a decent lead to have on last place; Edmonton has played two more games than the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo “wins” those game they have in hand, or gets past regulation and loses in a few contests, and they could be very easily fighting for the top spot in the draft lottery.
Tampa Bay holds the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but is only one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third and final guaranteed Atlantic Division spot. Tampa is hoping to improve their playoff standings and move into one of those top three spots.