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Point by point, Lightning keep playoff chances alive

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning
More important than their record in recent games is that the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to earn points in the standings to keep their chances alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Tampa Bay heads into Saturday’s game at Buffalo with a record of just 1-1-2 in its past four games, but has gained at least a point in eight of its past nine outings dating back to Jan. 17.

Earning just a single point, however, rather than two, has been somewhat frustrating for the club as of late.

Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher remains optimistic towards team's chances (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Consider the team’s most recent game on Thursday against the New York Rangers, in which the Bolts earned a point for the regulation tie, but failed to gain ground on both Florida and Washington, who each sit nine points ahead of the Lightning in the Southeast Division standings.

Still, the club’s situation could be worse had it come away with nothing, causing head coach Guy Boucher to remain optimistic about his team’s chances as it continues on a three-game road trip this weekend.

“We’ve only lost one regulation game in the past nine, so we have to keep on going,” Boucher said. “We’re playing well, we’re making it hard [for opponents] and our guys are finding ways to get points.”

With the team’s current mindset of taking just one game at a time, the Lightning now look to conquer what lies ahead of them on the schedule.

The swing away from home continues with an important matchup against the Sabres, who entering play on Friday, had an identical record as the Lightning and who also matched the Bolts’ same point total of 52, while sitting just one spot behind Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference standings.

Complicating matters is that Saturday’s game at Buffalo is also the first in a back-to-back set away from home, in which the Lightning will travel to Pittsburgh immediately following the game against the Sabres to prepare for Sunday’s finale versus the Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center.

For now, however, Boucher acknowledged that his players must continue to manage their emotions and keep on battling to achieve the desired results.

“These are some tough teams and this at the moment is a tough trip for us,” Boucher added. “So we have to make sure we continue to improve.”

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