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SABRES ARE OUT TO PROVE THEY CAN BEAT THE LIGHTNING

by Jourdon LaBarber / Buffalo Sabres

There was a common sentiment in the Buffalo Sabres’ dressing room following the team’s morning skate on Thursday. They believe they should have one more win on their record, and they owe one to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Buffalo has played Tampa Bay twice already this season and lost both times. But their most recent matchup – at Amalie Arena on Oct. 17 – has left a particularly bad taste in the Sabres’ mouths. In that game, they outshot the Lightning 16-3 in the first period and 32-22 on the night.

They lost 2-1 after the Lightning scored a power-play goal with 3:57 remaining in regulation.

“We feel like we need to go out and get what we deserve tonight,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “I think we can draw on the success we had against them last time and how we played in that game, but, you know 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 hopefully that’s what they do expect from us.”

Coverage of the game begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550 with puck drop set for 7 p.m.

Ironically, the Sabres’ play in their recent winning stretch – they’ve won their past two games and three of their last four – is reminiscent of how they played in that loss in Tampa.

In that game, they were tenacious right from puck drop. They limited chances for a high-powered Tampa offense and put themselves in positions to score throughout the contest. Ultimately the pucks didn’t find the back of the net, but their spirit didn’t waver until the final buzzer.

“[When] we played these guys, that first period we didn’t get the offense we wanted,” Sabres alternate captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “As a team, we put them back on their heels, we dictated the game, possessed the puck, we fought for our ice and guys got open. We came into the room and even though we weren’t up, I think there was a good feel in the room. Guys were excited to play with each other; we wanted to help each other. That’s been a staple of our last few here.”

One difference for the Sabres from their previous two matchups with the Lightning will be their man between the pipes. Linus Ullmark will make his third-consecutive start in goal for Buffalo after allowing a combined two goals on 58 shots in his past two outings.

Ullmark didn’t seem fazed about the Lightning’s offensive skill on Thursday morning.

“We’re a really good team also,” he said. “I know it’s been some tight games, especially the last one against them, so it’s going to be a fun game – a lot of offensive skills on both teams. But I think we’ve got to keep good defense and just keep playing like we’ve been.”

Besides Ullmark, Bylsma said that the rest of Buffalo’s lineup will be a game-time decision. But defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who has played in each of the past two games for the Sabres, did not participate in the team’s morning skate.

Bylsma said that Colaiacovo is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

“I wouldn’t say he got hurt,” Bylsma said. “He’s been dealing with bumps and bruises and obviously practiced yesterday. He was fine through practice. It just somewhat suddenly arose so it wasn’t a specific injury that we’re talking about right now.”

Mike Weber, a healthy scratch in each of the past two games, filled in for Colaiacovo on Thursday morning.


LIGHTNING SEARCHING FOR OFFENSE
One of the reasons Buffalo struggled to score in their last meeting with Tampa Bay was a stellar performance from Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. They won’t see him on Thursday, as Lightning coach Jon Cooper announced that backup Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the start in net.

After undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot that sidelined him for the first month of the season, Vasilevskiy allowed three goals on 35 save opportunities in his season debut, a 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

On the offensive side, Tampa Bay will be without forward Jonathan Drouin as he continues to recover from a lower-body injury. Their other injured forward, Cedric Paquette, remains questionable with an upper-body injury.

Tampa Bay can use all the offense it can get. The Lightning have lost five of their last six games – the exception being the win against Carolina – and have scored one goal or less in each of those losses. Most recently, they were defeated 2-1 in Detroit on Tuesday.


PROJECTED LINEUP
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 90 Ryan O’Reilly – 63 Tyler Ennis
22 Johan Larsson – 15 Jack Eichel – 82 Marcus Foligno
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 12 Brian Gionta
88 Jamie McGinn – 17 David Legwand – 23 Sam Reinhart

4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe – 46 Cody Franson
6 Mike Weber – 3 Mark Pysyk

35 Linus Ullmark
31 Chad Johnson

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