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Preview: Lightning at Sabres

Buffalo forward Kyle Okposo out week to week; Lightning hope 'Triplets' keep rolling

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

LIGHTNING (29-26-8) at SABRES (27-26-11)

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


Lightning team scope

The Tampa Bay Lightning, 7-2-2 in their past 11 games, look to win for the sixth time in their past eight road games. They are five points behind the New York Islanders for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay's offense has been powered by the "Triplets Line" of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov; Palat has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his past eight games, Johnson has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his past seven games, and Kucherov has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) during a five-game point streak, including three or more points in three of his past five games. The Lightning are coming off a 5-2 loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday; forward Adam Erne scored his first NHL goal, and goaltender Peter Budaj made 30 saves. "I don't think we were skating," forward Jonathan Drouin told the Tampa Bay Times. "In the first [period], we were getting pucks deep. It was hard for them to create offense that way. But we started turning it over in the neutral zone, and a team with that much speed and skill, they'll make you pay." Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to start.


Sabres team scope

Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo is out week to week with a rib injury sustained in a 6-3 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, coach Dan Bylsma said Saturday. "I hope that can be re-evaluated and we can get a better result after 7-10 days," Bylsma said. "It's a big loss. Obviously a top line guy and on our power play, our leading point-getter; it's a big loss and one we experienced in the game." With Okposo out, forward Nicolas Deslauriers, a healthy scratch the past four games, will play for the first time since Feb. 19. "He needs to be a physical presence, needs to be a factor in the game with his body," Bylsma said, "and with the line right now with Zemgus [Girgensons] and Justin Bailey, we need all four lines to play in this game tonight." The Sabres, 1-3-1 in their past five games, are six points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference and have a chance to pass the Lightning, who they trail by one point. "Obviously it means a lot," center Ryan O'Reilly said. "These guys are right in front of us and a team that's in the way right now. … These are the real important ones." Goaltender Robin Lehner will start.


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat -- Tyler Johnson -- Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn -- Brayden Point -- Jonathan Drouin

Adam Erne -- Cedric Paquette -- Vladislav Namestnikov

Greg McKegg -- Gabriel Dumont -- J.T. Brown

Victor Hedman -- Jake Dotchin

Jason Garrison -- Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn -- Andrej Sustr

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Scratched: Luke Witkowski

Injuries: Ryan Callahan (hip), Steven Stamkos (lateral meniscus tear)


Sabres projected lineup

Evander Kane -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Brian Gionta

Marcus Foligno -- Jack Eichel -- Sam Reinhart

Matt Moulson -- Evan Rodrigues -- Tyler Ennis

Nicolas Deslauriers -- Zemgus Girgensons -- Justin Bailey

Jake McCabe -- Rasmus Ristolainen

Dmitry Kulikov -- Zach Bogosian

Josh Gorges -- Cody Franson

Robin Lehner

Anders Nilsson

Scratched: Justin Falk

Injured: Kyle Okposo (ribs), William Carrier (knee), Johan Larsson (wrist)


Status report

Budaj, Witkowski, Dumont, McKegg, Brown and Stamkos skated Saturday morning. Stamkos has been out with a knee injury since Nov. 15.... The Sabres likely will not call up a forward from Rochester of the American Hockey League to replace Okposo.


Who's hot

Hedman has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his past seven games. … Eichel has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in an eight-game point streak. O'Reilly has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past 12 games. Kane has 10 points (nine goals, one assist) in his past 11 games.

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