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Sabres embrace challenge of hosting Stamkos, Lightning

Moulson returns to lineup; Bogosian ruled out

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Peruse team statistics from throughout the NHL, and you'll find the Tampa Bay Lightning near the top in virtually every category. Their 34 points rank first in the Eastern Conference and second in the NHL. Their average of 3.70 goals per game leads the league, as does their power play at 26.7 percent.

Individual stats tell the same story. Steven Stamkos leads the NHL with 36 points, while linemate Nikita Kucherov ranks second in both points (34) and goals (17). Stamkos has been so productive, in fact, that his current scoreless "drought" of two games is a season high.

All of this, Phil Housley said, makes for an exciting challenge for the Buffalo Sabres when they welcome the Lightning to KeyBank Center on Tuesday night. 

"I think it's a tremendous challenge," Housley said. "We have to respect the fact that they're first in the East for a reason. You take a look at their team, they have that good mobile defense, they join in the rush, they have a terrific rush game so our puck management tonight is going to be critical not to feed it.

"We're just going to have to play really good defense. But that doesn't take away the things that we've done the past two games. We didn't win in Montreal [on Saturday], but everything pointed in the direction that we're doing the right things. I just look at it as a great challenge for our group."

Video: Game Preview: Tampa at Buffalo (11/28/17)

The Sabres were stifled by Montreal goaltender Carey Price in a 3-0 loss on Saturday, but Housley felt their play was consistent with the effort that earned them a 3-1 win over Edmonton at home on Friday. In that game, the Sabres were able to shut down the Oilers' top line centered by Connor McDavid.

Slowing down the line of Stamkos, Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov could pose an even greater challenge, Sabres forward Johan Larsson explained, simply because of the success they've already had this season.

"I think they kind of have more confidence, so they're tougher to stop at this point," Larsson said. "They've got a ton of speed and skill so you've got to be aware and play a boring game against them."

"I think playing with Kucherov and Namestnikov, they've formed a really good chemistry," Housley added. "They read off each other really well, they know where each other are and they're making a lot of really good plays through traffic. We're just going to have to try and make sure that we're taking their time and space away."

Video: HOUSLEY: Pregame

Robin Lehner is expected to make his third straight start in net for the Sabres. He'll be opposed by Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who leads the league with 15 wins this season.

Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with GMC Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for just after 7. 

 

Moulson joins the lineup

With Jacob Josefson out four to six weeks with an ankle injury and Seth Griffith having been reassigned to Rochester, Matt Moulson will return to the Sabres lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch for the last six games.

Moulson has been held without a point in 12 games this season.

"I just want to see a good compete level in his game," Housley said. "He's going to get an opportunity on the power play tonight. Just do what Matt Moulson does well. He's a sniper, he can tip pucks, he can create offense, he can make the next play. I'd like to see that from him tonight."

The Sabres could use a spark with the extra man, having gone 0-for-15 in their last six games, and Moulson led the team with 11 power-play goals last season. Moulson said restoring the success that the team enjoyed last season might be as simple as restoring confidence with a goal around the net. 

"We've got some pretty good players on the power play, whatever units they come up with. It's little things right now," Moulson said. "A couple goals and all of a sudden the seams will open up and things will go into the net a lot easier … We've got to create those ugly goals to get the pretty goals."

Moulson will join a power-play unit comprised of Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo and Jason Pominville with Rasmus Ristolainen at the point. Buffalo's other unit will consist of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane with Nathan Beaulieu and Victor Antipin on the back end. 

 

Bogosian out again

Zach Bogosian is continuing to inch closer toward making his season debut, but he'll have to wait a little bit longer after being ruled out for Tuesday's game. Bogosian has only had one full practice with the team as he works his way back from a lower-body injury.

"He's not going to play tonight," Housley said. "I really like the progress that he's been making. Like I said yesterday, it was a game-time decision but we wanted to be cautious with this injury. He looks really good out there, but I feel with just one practice and a pregame skate, I feel he needs more time."

The Sabres have two full practice days between Tuesday and their next game, at home against Pittsburgh on Friday night.

 

Projected lineup

9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
67 Benoit Pouliot - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
17 Jordan Nolan - 22 Johan Larsson - 29 Jason Pominville
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 51 Kyle Criscuolo - 26 Matt Moulson

6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
19 Jake McCabe - 93 Victor Antipin
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 41 Justin Falk

40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson

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