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game preview

Sabres at Lightning preview

Tampa Bay seeks eighth consecutive victory to match longest winning streak this season; Buffalo tries to end three-game skid

by Corey Long / Correspondent

SABRES (28-24-7) at LIGHTNING (46-11-4)

7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, MSG-B, NHL.TV


The Game

The Tampa Bay Lightning will try for their eighth straight victory and match their longest winning streak this season when they host the Buffalo Sabres at Amalie Arena on Thursday.

The Lightning, which won eight consecutive games from Nov. 29-Dec. 3, have outscored opponents 35-12 during their seven-game winning streak. They have the best record in the NHL and have a 16-point lead on the Boston Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who leads the NHL in scoring with 99 points (29 goals, 70 assists), can become the first player in Tampa Bay history to score 100 points in multiple seasons; he had 100 points (39 goals, 61 assists) in 80 games last season.

Defenseman Victor Hedman will be a game-time decision because of a lower-body injury that caused him to miss a 5-2 win at the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

The Sabres, looking to avoid their fourth straight loss, have been outscored 14-5 in three consecutive defeats and are 3-6-1 in their past 10 games. Buffalo is six points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.


Players to watch

Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is 6-0-2 with a 1.34 goals-against average, .957 save percentage and three shutouts in his past eight starts.

Sabres forward Jeff Skinner has seven points (five goals, two assists) in his past seven games and is one goal shy of matching his NHL career high of 37 in 2016-17.


They said it

"We've beaten [the Lightning] early this year (a 2-1 win on Nov. 13) and it was a close, tight game so we can certainly build off that. Pretty much all the games that we've played against them have been pretty tight games." -- Sabres coach Phil Housley

"It's been a good stretch for us. I think we've done a good job of limiting scoring chances. Our goaltending has been exceptional, which has helped. We've really cracked down on trying to play the right way." -- Lightning center Steven Stamkos


Sabres projected lineup

Jeff Skinner -- Jack Eichel -- Evan Rodrigues

Conor Sheary -- Casey Mittelstadt -- Sam Reinhart

Zemgus Girgensons -- Johan Larsson -- Jason Pominville

C.J. Smith -- Vladimir Sobotka -- Tage Thompson

Jake McCabe -- Rasmus Ristolainen

Rasmus Dahlin -- Zach Bogosian

Nathan Beaulieu -- Casey Nelson

Linus Ullmark

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Lawrence Pilut

Injured: Marco Scandella (upper body), Kyle Okposo (concussion), Matt Hunwick (lower body)


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat -- Steven Stamkos -- J.T. Miller

Tyler Johnson -- Brayden Point -- Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn -- Anthony Cirelli -- Yanni Gourde

Adam Erne -- Cedric Paquette -- Mathieu Joseph

Victor Hedman -- Anton Stralman

Ryan McDonagh -- Erik Cernak

Braydon Coburn -- Mikhail Sergachev

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Scratched: Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Danick Martel

Injured: None


Status report

Nelson, who has not played since Dec. 4 because of an upper-body injury, will be a game-time decision. … Hedman was a full participant at the morning skate and wore a regular jersey.


Stat pack

Eichel has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in his past nine games. … Stamkos has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in a seven-game point streak

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