TAMPA - For the second season in a row, the Buffalo Sabres will conclude their season with Linus Ullmark in net. The second-year goalie will make his season debut when the Sabres play their finale against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Sunday evening.
Ullmark made his last NHL start exactly one year ago, when he made 21 saves in a 4-3 win for the Sabres in their 2015-16 season finale against the Islanders in Brooklyn. Prior to that, he made 19 starts while Robin Lehner nursed a high-ankle sprain to begin the season.
This season, he's been a workhorse for the Rochester Americans, leading all AHL goaltenders with 3,082:36 of total ice time. He has a .909 save percentage and a 2.86 goals-against average in 53 games and was named an AHL All-Star.
"I think development for Linus this year has been a lot of games and a lot of shots and he's done extremely well with that workload and demonstrated he can do it over a weekend playing back-to-back games and the number of games he's played," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's getting the opportunity tonight to show what he can be."
Ullmark won't be the only young player looking to prove himself. C.J. Smith, Alexander Nylander and Sean Malone have all made their NHL debuts since the beginning of April. Smith was a healthy scratch against Florida on Saturday, but Nylander saw time on the power play and Malone centered a line with Zemgus Girgensons and Nicolas Deslauriers that Bylsma said what the team's best all night.
"It's another opportunity for them to show what they can do and put them in situations where they have a chance to show that," Bylsma said.
The Lightning were eliminated from postseason contention with Toronto's win in Pittsburgh on Saturday, meaning there will be no playoff implications on the line in tonight's game. It was the same scenario in Buffalo's visit to Florida on Saturday, a 3-0 loss for the Sabres and a game they admitted lacked intensity.
"We've just got to add meaning to the game," Bylsma said. "We've got to find that in every one of our players. That's what we didn't do last night and the challenge for our group tonight."
Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 5 p.m.