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Preview: Sabres at Lightning

Goaltender Ben Bishop returns for Tampa Bay after missing nine games with injury; Buffalo looks to stay in contention in Eastern Conference

by Corey Long / Correspondent

SABRES (16-15-9) at LIGHTNING (19-19-4) 

7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, MSG-B, NHL.TV 


Sabres team scope 

The Buffalo Sabres have fought their way back into the playoff picture by going 3-0-1 in their past four games, and enter their game at the Tampa Bay Lightning six points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. "I think you're seeing a response from our team based on desperation," coach Dan Bylsma said. Goaltender Anders Nilsson will start, with No. 1 Robin Lehner not making the trip because of the flu. Nilsson is 2-0-1 with six goals allowed in his past three starts. "This will be [three games in four days]," Bylsma said of Nilsson. "But he's put in a lot of work and in the time he hasn't been playing, he's been preparing to handle the load as we go forward. And with the games that he's played recently, he's earned it."


Lightning team scope 

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop will start for the first time since Dec. 20, after missing nine games with a groin injury. "It's no fun missing time and it's going to be exciting to get out there and play," Bishop said. "I want to get off to a good start. It's going to be an adjustment in the first 20 minutes but I've had a couple of good practices to get ready." Bishop is 9-0-1 against Buffalo with a .942 save percentage. The Lightning, in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, will try to end a four-game losing streak. Tampa Bay has allowed six goals in three of their past four games. "It's all about attitude and playing with the right state of mind," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "It's a lot of hard work, but we know what it takes."


Sabres projected lineup 

William Carrier - Ryan O' Reilly - Kyle Okposo

Marcus Foligno - Jack Eichel - Brian Gionta

Evander Kane - Sam Reinhart - Justin Bailey

Nicolas Deslauriers - Zemgus Girgensons - Matt Moulson

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Zach Bogosian - Cody Franson

Justin Falk - Taylor Fedun

Anders Nilsson

Linus Ullmark

Scratched: none

Injured: Cody McCormick (blood clots), Tyler Ennis (groin), Dmitry Kulikov (back), Johan Larsson (wrist), Josh Gorges (hip), Robin Lehner (illness)


Lightning projected lineup 

Ondrej Palat - Vladislav Namestnikov - Nikita Kucherov

Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin

Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Matthew Peca

Michael Bournival - Cedric Paquette - Gabriel Dumont

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov - Braydon Coburn

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Luke Witkowski

Injured: Ryan Callahan (lower body), Steven Stamkos (knee injury), J.T. Brown (upper body), Brayden Point (hand), Adam Erne (broken foot)


Status report 

Boyle will return after missing the past four games with a lower-body injury and will take Callahan's spot on the second line. ... Bylsma did not rule out starting Nilsson on Friday at the Carolina Hurricanes. … Dumont will be in an NHL lineup for the first time since Feb. 7, 2015, when he was with the Montreal Canadiens.


Who's hot 

Reinhart has four points (one goal, three assists) in his past two games, and 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in his past 10 games. … O'Reilly has six points (one goal, five assists) in a three-game point streak. … Foligno has goals in three straight games. … Kucherov has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in his past eight games. … Drouin has six points (two goals, four assists) in his past six games and 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in his past 12 games. … Hedman has six assists in his past five games and 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in his past 13 games.

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