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