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SABRES SEEK TO EXTEND WINNING STREAK IN DIVISIONAL MATCH AGAINST TAMPA

by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres

TAMPA – The Buffalo Sabres will go for their fourth-straight victory Thursday night and will have some very special guests in attendance.

It’s the Parents Trip and some family members of the players are on the current two-game road trip in Florida to watched their boys play. A few of the dads watch the morning skate at Amalie Arena as the Sabres prepared for their match against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with the Tops Gamenight pregame show beginning at 7 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.

Patrick Kaleta’s father came along and Kaleta is happy that he’s able to experience a taste of life on the road.

“I think I can speak for everyone here that you just want to go out there and make them proud and kind of pay them back and let them see what all their work has done for us,” Kaleta said.

Sabres coach Ted Nolan invited the parents to sit in on their morning meeting so they can see what a gameday is really like.

“It means a lot. Even some of the guys on our team were joking around that some guys were nervous because their parents were in the stands and they wanted to impress them,” Nolan said.

“It’s just like when you’re 6 years old. You want to do well for your parents and [even when] you’re 26, you want to do the same thing. It’s exciting.”

Jhonas Enroth will start again for Buffalo. He’s started the past five games and is 5-1-0 with a 1.55 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage in his past six appearances. With the win on Tuesday, he’s now 4-1-0 in his career against Tampa Bay with .951 save percentage and a 1.56 goals-against average.

Ben Bishop is expected to be between the pipes for the Lightning.


DIVISION DECISIONS
The parents are also able to watch a Sabres team that’s playing its best hockey of the year.

Buffalo has won six of its past seven games and is 5-0-2 in their past seven games against divisional opponents. They have earned at least a point in seven-straight divisional matchups for the first time since they had points in nine-straight Northeast Division games from Dec. 4, 2010 to Feb. 14, 2011 when they went 8-0-1.

Buffalo’s current 6-1-0 run marks their first such stretch since they posted an identical mark since February 2012.

The Sabres swept the Montreal Canadiens in their home-and-home series over the weekend and hope to do the same against Tampa. Buffalo topped the Lightning 2-1 in a shootout-deciding victory Tuesday at First Niagara Center.

“This is what playoff hockey’s all about, too. This is how you play in the playoffs,” Nolan said. “You get to know a little bit more about the opposition. We know they’re going to come at us a lot better than they did. They’re not one of the top teams in the League by accident.”

With 37 points in 26 games, the Lightning are off to their best start in franchise history and are currently tied with Anaheim for first place in the League standings.


GETTING HEALTHIER
Cody McCormick’s father is on the trip and he’ll watch his son play his first game since Nov. 26. McCormick has missed the past four games due to a concussion.

He hopes to carry on the strong defensive play that helped Buffalo beat the Lightning on Tuesday.

“We were ready for the first period. We had a great first period,” McCormick said. “They’re a fast team. We just need to make sure we have everybody in check on their team.”

Drew Stafford took part in the morning skate but will not play. Nolan said on Wednesday that Stafford should be ready for the team’s game against the Florida Panthers on Saturday.


TOUR STOP
The Sabres hosted a Road Crew party at O’Brien’s Irish Pub on Tuesday that featured a meet-and-greet session with the broadcast team and coaching staff. Nolan was glad to see such a strong Sabres fan base in Florida in attendance.

“It was great. That’s what we play the game for,” he said. “Obviously we play it for the enjoyment but also for the people who enjoy watching. The fans from Buffalo are true loyal fans and they’re die-hard Sabres fans. To see that many in Tampa Bay was amazing.”


PROJECTED LINEUP
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 80 Chris Stewart
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta

4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Mike Weber – 24 Tyson Strachan

1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: 21 Drew Stafford (injured, lower body), 41 Andrej Meszaros (injured, concussion protocol), 61 Andre Benoit

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