TV: SUN (HD), MSG-Buffalo, WGRZ
LAST 10: Tampa Bay 6-2-2, Buffalo 5-4-1
Season Series: It's the third of four meetings this season. The Lightning won the first two contests by a combined 7-3 score, taking a home-and-home series against the Sabres back in October. The clubs will next meet March 19 in Tampa Bay.
Big Story: Two teams expected to be battling for Eastern Conference supremacy this season are instead battling for their playoff lives. The Sabres, who lost Game 7 to the Philadelphia Flyers in the conference quarterfinals last spring, are currently 11th in the East. The Lightning, one season removed from taking the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to seven games in the conference final, are in 13th place.
However, Buffalo enters the match on a six-game point streak (5-0-1), its longest since finishing last season on an identical 5-0-1 run. The Sabres are also seeking their first four-game win streak since winning four straight from Nov. 4-11.
Lightning: The Lightning grabbed a 3-2 lead over the New York Rangers through two periods on the strength of goals from Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Bruno Gervais, but ultimately dropped a 4-3 overtime decision on Thursday. Each of the last seven meetings between the Rangers and Lightning have been decided by two goals or less, including five that were separated by one goal and four that required extra time.
After falling to last place in the East, the Lightning have chipped away at the deficit, which stands at 10 points entering Saturday's action.
"We've only lost one regulation game in the past nine, so we have to keep on going," coach Guy Boucher said. "We're playing well, we're making it hard [for opponents] and our guys are finding ways to get points."
Sabres: Like the Lightning, the Sabres continue to dig out of a hole. Nathan Gerbe scored in the fifth round of a shootout and Ryan Miller made it stand when he forced Michael Ryder to shoot wide of the net to lead the Sabres to their third straight victory -- a 3-2 shootout decision over the Dallas Stars on Friday. Gerbe's winner came off a backhand shot that struck the post and caromed in off Kari Lehtonen. Miller finished with 24 saves in regulation and overtime before stopping Loui Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro and Tomas Vincour in the shootout. The Sabres rallied from a 2-0 deficit on a pair of third-period goals by Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy -- Roy's goal came with just 39 seconds left in regulation.
Who's Hot: Stamkos has 20 goals and 10 assists in his last 24 games. He's on a five-game point streak and has 60 points for the season, two behind League leader Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins. … Miller is on the best six-game stretch of his career, going 5-0-1 with two shutouts.
Injury Report: The Sabres are without forwards Jochen Hecht (concussion) and Colin Stuart (knee). Cody McCormick left Friday's game with what the team called an upper-body injury. … The Lightning are missing defenseman Mattias Ohlund (knees) and Dana Tyrell (knee). Forward Ryan Malone (upper body) is questionable.
Stat Pack: With a League-high 36 goals in the Lightning's first 53 games, Stamkos is on pace to finish the season with 56 goals. If he reaches 50, he'll be just the sixth player to have two 50-goal seasons prior to his 23rd birthday.
Puck Drop : The Sabres have points in their last 10 home games (6-0-4) -- their last regulation loss on home ice coming Dec. 10. It's the team's longest such streak since 2009-10, when they went 9-0-3 in 12 home games from Dec. 9 to Jan. 29.
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