SABRES (13-15-4) at LIGHTNING (13-18-1)
TV: MSG-B, SUN
Last 10: Buffalo 4-3-3; Tampa Bay 4-6-0
Season series: Second of three meetings. Ryan Miller made 30 saves and Thomas Vanek set up goals by Cody Hodgson and Tyler Myers to lead the Sabres to a 2-1 win over the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Feb. 26.
Big story: The only NHL teams to have changed coaches since the start of the 2012-13 season face off at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Buffalo has won three in a row to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Tampa Bay is home for the first time since relieving Guy Boucher of his duties over the weekend. New coach Jon Cooper won't make his NHL debut until Friday, so assistants Daniel Lacroix, Martin Raymond and Steve Thomas will run the bench again.
Sabres: If there was ever a stretch to make fans believe Buffalo might be able to overcome its lackluster first half to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Sabres winning twice in Montreal in a span of five days might have been it. On Saturday they bent, getting outshot 39-18, but didn't break -- thanks to Miller, who finished with 38 saves, and Vanek, who returned from a one-game injury absence to score twice in the second period. His power-play goal at 10:25 opened the scoring, and he netted what proved to be the game-winner with 39 seconds left.
"Maybe it helps some of the guys in the room, but for me, we're going to need to win hockey games right to the end," Miller said. "There's no easy way to get to the playoffs, even teams that are at the top can't coast in. You want to be playing good hockey for the next month here, so we just want to get our game together and see where we land."
Lightning: A season that has disappointed to this point for Tampa Bay was highlighted by a tumultuous 24-hour stretch this weekend in which the Lightning fell in Ottawa on Saturday night, Boucher lost his job after two seasons and 32 games, and then the Lightning lost again in Winnipeg on Sunday by a 3-2 final. A trio of assistant coaches ran the bench, with Lacroix, Raymond and Thomas handling the duties. Steven Stamkos scored his League-leading 22nd goal in the defeat.
"We played a solid game," Stamkos said. "We haven't had a lot of those this year. When things aren't going well, they aren't going well. You have to find a way to push through them."
Who's hot: Tyler Ennis has two goals and four assists during a four-game points streak for the Sabres. Hodgson has four assists in the past two games.
Injury report: Buffalo defenseman Andrej Sekera (upper body) is day-to-day. Defenseman Alexander Sulzer (knee) is on injured reserve. … Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback (ankle) and forwards Benoit Pouliot (shoulder), Vincent Lecavalier (lower body) and Ryan Malone (shoulder) are on injured reserve.
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