After their impressive run came to an end this past weekend, a matchup against the last-place Tampa Bay Lightning might be just what the Buffalo Sabres need to get back on track.
The Sabres look to bounce back from a pair of losses and continue their dominance over the lowly Lightning when they meet Wednesday in Buffalo.
|Jochen Hecht, left, and the Sabres have had the upper hand on goalie Johan Holmqvist and the Lightning, as Buffalo has won nine of the last 10 meetings with Tampa Bay. The two teams face off tonight at HSBC Arena. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)
The Sabres (28-23-8) are coming off a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, one night after falling to the New York Islanders 5-1. They outshot the Penguins 37-25 but still dropped their second straight following an 8-0-2 run that helped get them back in the Eastern Conference playoff mix.
"Same story, a different game," said Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek, who scored his team-leading 22nd goal on Sunday. "We have to be pleased with the effort, but it's still a loss."
While Buffalo has struggled lately, it has had no trouble with Tampa Bay (25-28-6).
The Sabres have won their first two meetings this season over the Lightning, and have won nine of their last 10 in the series. Buffalo is outscoring Tampa Bay 43-23 in those contests.
"You can't explain why you struggle against teams, and you can't explain why you end up having success against them," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after Buffalo's 4-2 win at Tampa Bay on Jan. 29.
Goaltender Ryan Miller has started each of the Sabres' last 10 games against the Lightning, posting a 2.27 goals-against average in those contests. Miller is hoping to bounce back against Tampa Bay after stopping just 28 of 35 shots in his last two appearances. He had recorded a 1.53 GAA and two shutouts in Buffalo's previous 10 games.
Sabres right wing Jason Pominville had a goal and two assists in the win over the Lightning last month, and has four goals and three assists in his last four games against them.
Vanek, who has nine goals and an assist in his last 10 games, has five goals and four assists in 10 career games against Tampa Bay.
The Sabres lost to the Lightning 3-2 in their last meeting at HSBC Arena on Jan. 13, 2007, but have still won 14 of their last 19 against Tampa Bay in Buffalo. The Lightning, meanwhile, are 7-0-1 on the road since Jan. 8 after starting the season just 3-14-3 away from home.
Tampa Bay lost to Washington 3-2 on Saturday after going 4-0-1 in its previous five.
The Lightning trailed 2-0 in the third period before goals by Vinny Prospal with 4:11 left and Jan Hlavac 33 seconds later tied the score. Tampa Bay was unable to take advantage of the momentum shift, though, as the Capitals scored the winner with 3 minutes remaining.
"A tough one," Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis said. "We're not going to quit. We're still in the hunt."
Johan Holmqvist made 32 saves on Saturday, and is 7-2-1 with a 2.52 GAA and two shutouts since Jan. 12 - his only other regulation loss in that span was against Buffalo on Jan. 29. Holmqvist is 0-1-1 with a 3.92 GAA in his career against the Sabres.
Three-time All-Star Vincent Lecavalier, who leads the Lightning with 32 goals and 76 points, has seven goals and four assists during a nine-game point streak against Buffalo.