With how poorly both teams have played in the past few weeks, the best news for the slumping Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning is that they'll be facing each other twice during the next five days.
Tampa Bay looks to snap a six-game slide on Saturday night when it hosts a Sabres club that has dropped three in a row.
The Lightning, 0-4-2 in their last six home games against Buffalo, are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night - their 11th defeat in 12 games.
"It seems like we're waiting for something bad to happen," said Tampa Bay interim coach Rick Tocchet, who is 1-4-4 since taking over for the fired Barry Melrose on Nov. 14. "We played hard. We have no margin for error it seems like."
The Lightning (6-11-8) have scored 2.33 goals per game during their current 0-4-2 stretch and are last in the NHL, averaging 2.24 a game. Tampa Bay's 5-2 victory over the Sabres (11-11-3) on Oct. 30 was its highest-scoring game of 2008-09.
Martin St. Louis, who leads the Lightning with 13 assists, scored his sixth goal of the season against Boston, but Tampa Bay went scoreless for the final 58:39.
"I know the guys are dejected," said Tocchet, whose team is converting just 16.8 percent of its power-play chances. "We need to find scoring somehow."
St. Louis, who had an assist in Tampa Bay's win against Buffalo earlier this season, has registered a point in six of his last seven games.
Vincent Lecavalier assisted on St. Louis' goal versus Boston, making him the franchise's career leader with 340. The 10th-year center has a point in 12 consecutive games against Buffalo, including a season-high two assists Oct. 30.
While Tampa Bay is struggling to find the back of the net, so are the Sabres, who have averaged just 1.90 goals in posting a 2-8-0 record since defeating St. Louis 4-3 on Nov. 12.
Right wing Ales Kotalik scored the Sabres' only goal on a 5-on-3 power-play in the third period as Buffalo dropped its third straight Thursday, 2-1 at Florida.
"We've got to get through it," Kotalik said. "This is a really good hockey team in my eyes and a strong enough group to figure out what to do and how to be a better team night in and night out."
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff thinks Ryan Miller can get better. The Sabres' goaltender stopped 23 of 25 shots but allowed back-to-back goals to the Panthers in a 35-second span in the second period.
"You've got to get saves there. You've got to get some saves," Ruff said. "When we're pushing hard, you're going to need a big save. ... I thought it was an easy play for Ryan to read."
Miller allowed all five goals to the Lightning in October, but is 11-2-0 with a 2.66 GAA in his career versus Tampa Bay.
The Lightning's last win at home against the Sabres was 3-1 on March 18, 2004.
These teams meet again in Buffalo next Wednesday.
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