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Sabres go for road sweep as they visit Tampa Bay

by Davis Harper /

SABRES (5-1-0) at LIGHTNING (2-3-2)

TV: MSG-Buffalo, SUN (HD)

Season series: This is the first of four meetings between the two teams, who split their four matchups in 2010-11.

Big Story: Buffalo looks to stay hot on the road as it goes for a sweep of an early-season four-game trip. The Sabres are undefeated in four road games, including a 3-0 shutout win Thursday at Florida, which sit even on points (6) with Tampa Bay in the Southeast. The Lightning will need an inspired effort to match the Sabres, who have won 10 of the last 12 meetings at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Team Scope:

Key to the Sabres' fast start has been outstanding work from goalie Ryan Miller, who has been sensational, even as the defense in front of him has experienced highs and lows. Miller has 62 saves in the past two games, including 40 in a 3-1 win over Montreal on Tuesday. Behind a much stiffer defense two days later against the Panthers, the Olympic MVP needed to stop just 22 shots for his first shutout of the season.

"We owed (Miller) one, so I thought that was important, too, for the way we played in Montreal," coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought that last 40 minutes and especially when leading we stayed away from any of the odd-numbered stuff and we were going to make Florida earn something if they were going to get it."

Miller is 4-1-0 in five starts with a 1.61 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage.

Lightning: After nearly scaling the mountaintop in 2010-11 when it reached the Eastern Conference finals, Tampa Bay has struggled in the early going this season, winning its first game before losing five in a row. But the Lightning showed signs of life Thursday with a solid 4-1 win over the New York Islanders. Tampa Bay showed the most improvement in its positioning and discipline, as forwards worked well together to not only create goals, but also in staying contained and backchecking to foil Islander attacks.

"Tonight it was really important that we stayed disciplined," forward Ryan Malone said. "After our last game here it was nice to see us be the ones with an aggressive forecheck. We did a good job of not allowing them too many chances."

Who's Hot: Don't be surprised if Buffalo's Thomas Vanek -- who already has six goals and 10 points -- to continue his fine start against Tampa Bay. Vanek has shredded the Lightning over his career, with 22 goals -- including three hat tricks -- in 24 games.

Injury Report: Center Jordan Hecht has yet to play for Buffalo due to preseason concussion, and center Paul Gaustad is day-to-day with a hip injury. … For the Lightning, defenseman Mattias Ohlund is out indefinitely after having surgery on both knees last week.

Stat Pack:
Tampa Bay will need to tighten up against Vanek and the Sabres. The Lightning allowed 23 goals during their five-game skid, and No. 1 goaltender Dwayne Roloson is currently sporting a 5.09 GAA -- he's also 0-7-1 lifetime against the Sabres.

Puck Drop: The difference in this game could swing on Tampa Bay's discipline. The Lightning have been hamstrung by excessive penalty minutes, as witnessed in their home-opener against Florida, when they allowed five power-play goals and spent 33 minutes in the penalty box. They spent just six minutes in the box on Thursday and killed both Islanders power plays, exhibiting the kind of cohesion coach Guy Boucher has been preaching.

"It was about discipline," Boucher said. "Everybody was on the same page."

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