LIGHTNING (6-6-2) at SABRES (5-7-0)
TV: SUN, MSG-B, BELL TV
BUFFALO -- Goaltender Linus Ullmark will make his third consecutive for the Buffalo Sabres when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
Ullmark has won two straight games, making 56 saves on 58 shots, and will have the opportunity to help the Sabres end a six-game losing streak against the Lightning. It will be his fourth NHL start.
"If you were trying to write a story or foresee what would happen with the goaltending situation, this was not one of them that you came up with if you dreamed up 10 or 15 scenarios," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "But I do think right from the start of training camp, even though he was not in games or in scrimmages, he was showing with his work on the ice he had really high potential."
The Sabres have lost to the Lightning in each of their previous games this season. The Lightning beat the Sabres 2-1 when they last played on Oct. 17.
"First and foremost it doesn't matter what we've done the last couple games, it's in the past," Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges said. "Today's an important game for us because I think we've played well against them, especially the last game we played. We still came up on the short end of the stick and I think that goes to show that's a good, quality hockey team we're facing over there."
The most recent time the Sabres beat the Lightning was a 2-1 shootout win Dec. 2, 2014.
"We feel like we need to go out and get what we deserve tonight," Bylsma said. "I think we can draw on the success we had last time and how we played in that game, but I asked the guys, 'What do the Lightning expect from us?' I think we've shown them how we're going to play, in particular the last time we played them, and that's hopefully what they do expect from us."
Sabres defenseman Mike Weber will return to the lineup after he was a healthy scratch the past two games. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo will sit out with an upper-body injury.
Forward Cedric Paquette may return for the Lightning. He's missed the past five games with a lower-body injury. Paquette skated in regular line rushes Thursday centering Vladislav Namestnikov and Ryan Callahan, but coach Jon Cooper said they'll see how he feels before game time before making a decision. If Paquette can't play, Tye McGinn will take his place in the lineup and face off against his oldest brother, Sabres forward Jamie McGinn.
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will make his second start of the season for Tampa Bay. He made 32 saves in a 4-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 1 after returning from a blood clot.
The Lightning know they've had tough games against the Sabres and haven't taken their Atlantic Division rivals for granted despite the success.
"We clearly have to have a better start than the last time we played these guys," Cooper said. "We were back against the wall; I think we were outshot 16-3 (in the first period on Oct. 17). We were extremely fortunate to come back and win the hockey game, but if we think that type of effort is going to do it tonight we're in trouble."
One area the Lightning have struggled in this season is scoring goals. Tampa Bay has scored 34 goals this season, but seven in the past six games.
"We're struggling too," captain Steven Stamkos said. "You look at our last six games, I think we've won one. So we've got to be a hungry team tonight and we know we're going to get the same over there."
Here are the projected lineups:
Ondrej Palat – Steven Stamkos – Valtteri Filppula
Alex Killorn – Tyler Johnson – Nikita Kucherov
Vladislav Namestnikov – Cedric Paquette – Ryan Callahan
J.T. Brown – Brian Boyle – Erik Condra
Victor Hedman – Anton Stralman
Matt Carle – Jason Garrison
Andrej Sustr – Braydon Coburn
Injured: Jonathan Drouin (lower body)
Scratched: Tye McGinn, Nikita Nesterov
Nicolas Deslauriers – Ryan O'Reilly – Tyler Ennis
Johan Larsson – Jack Eichel – Marcus Foligno
Matt Moulson – Zemgus Girgensons – Brian Gionta
Jamie McGinn – David Legwand – Sam Reinhart
Josh Gorges – Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe – Cody Franson
Mike Weber – Mark Pysyk
Injured: Carlo Colaiacovo (upper body), Evander Kane (knee), Robin Lehner (ankle), Zach Bogosian (lower body), Cody McCormick (blood clot)
Scratched: Tim Schaller
Status update: Bylsma said Colaiacovo's injury was a build-up of bumps and bruises over the past few days. He is day-to-day.
Who's hot: Kucherov has two goals and two assists in the past three games. Stamkos and Johnson have a goal and an assist in the past two games. … Gionta has two assists the past two games.