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Sabres hope to right ship against Lightning

by Eric Goodman

SABRES (6-12-1) at LIGHTNING (9-8-1)


Last 10: Buffalo 3-7-0; Tampa Bay 3-6-1

Season series: This is the first of three games this season. The Lightning took the 2011-12 season series with a 3-1-0 record.

Big story:  While the Lightning go for their fourth win in their last six games and try to maintain the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Sabres are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and are above only the Columbus Blue Jackets for the least amount of points in the NHL. Interim coach Ron Rolston seeks his first win for the Sabres in his third game behind the bench since he took over for fired coach Lindy Ruff last Wednesday.

Team Scope:

Sabres: Buffalo might have a new face leading the club for the remainder of the season, but it's been the same old result for Rolston over his first two games as the team's temporary coach. And while a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets last week resulted in Ruff being relieved of his duties, there isn't likely going to be any major personnel moves following a 4-0 shutout defeat to the visiting New York Islanders this past Saturday, which gave the Sabres their third straight loss at First Niagara Center. Rolston is going to deal with what he has, but is determined to make the best of it.

"The work is there. The care is there. Right now it's just the psyche part," Rolston told Saturday. "It's important for [the team] to stay on and stay positive."

Lightning: With such a consistent crop of quality offensive talent, it's hard to believe that the Lightning have made the playoffs just once in the past five seasons. But if Tampa Bay hopes to qualify for the postseason, it will help to get two all-important points against the struggling Sabres. While the Lightning bolted out the gate with five straight wins at home, they are only 1-3-1 at Tampa Bay Times Forum since then.

Tampa Bay is in a tough spot in that winning the Southeast Division would guarantee a playoff seed no lower than the third spot, but losing it could knock them out of contention altogether. The Lightning are tied with Carolina in points for the top spot in the division, but they played one more game than the Hurricanes. The team needs a better first-period showing Tuesday than it got in a 5-3 loss at Pittsburgh Sunday as the Penguins held a 3-0 lead entering the first intermission.

"You give [the Penguins] a three-goal lead, you get Crosby going early in the first period, it's going to be a tough night," Lightning forward Martin St. Louis told "I thought we hung in there and we didn't panic, we stuck with it and we fought back."

Who's hot: Buffalo hasn't had anyone recently that would be considered as playing hot, but captain Jason Pominville did have four points (3g, 1a) in four games against Tampa Bay last season. ... For the Lightning, Steven Stamkos is in the midst of a six-game point streak with six goals and six assists over that span.

Injury report: Defenseman Andrej Sekera returned to the Sabres' lineup Saturday after missing the last three games with a lower-body injury, while defenseman Jordan Leopold missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Alexander Sulzer left the game against the Islanders in the second period Saturday with a lower-body injury and did not return. Forward Ville Leino continues to skate, but remains on injured reserve. ... For the Lightning, forward Ryan Malone (lower body) is out until next month.

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