The Tampa Bay Lightning are facing adversity for the first time this season with three losses in four games and look to snap out of it when they visit the struggling Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night. Tampa Bay has dropped two straight for the first time this season after a dull effort in a 3-1 loss at Washington on Friday and Saturday’s 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh in which it allowed three 5-on-3 goals.
“We knew it was going to happen. We just didn’t know when,” Lightning left wing Alex Killorn told the Tampa Bay Times. “A lot of us in here are veteran guys that have been in the league long enough to know you’re not going to keep up that pace for a whole season.” Captain Steven Stamkos, who leads the league with 36 points, and linemate Nikita Kucherov (34) have been held to two points combined in the last four games and will try to warm up against the Sabres, who are last in the Eastern Conference and have one win in the past nine games (1-6-2). Buffalo, which came into Monday third-worst in the league in goals-against, earned a big victory against Edmonton on Friday and outshot Montreal on Saturday in a 3-0 loss. “This isn’t a league that’s built on moral victories,” Sabres center Jack Eichel told the Buffalo News. “To outplay somebody is not what we’re really here to do. We’re here to win games.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), MSG Buffalo
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (16-5-2): Kucherov has been stuck on 17 goals the last four games, falling behind league-leader Alex Ovechkin (18), and managed just five shots on net in the past three contests. “Our job is to find a way to get him the puck in areas, and he’s got to start shooting,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “He’s a dangerous, dangerous player, but this is a hard league to score in.” Stamkos has 12 shots in the last four games, but the center has one assist since a four-point game against Dallas on Nov. 16 and owns a minus-4 rating during that stretch.
ABOUT THE SABRES (6-14-4): Buffalo comes into the week last in the league in goals per game (2.29) and part of those offensive woes are due to a power play that is 0-for-15 in the last six contests. The Sabres led the league with the man advantage last season at 24.5 percent, but have dipped to 13.3 in 2017-18 and coach Phil Housley told reporters, “we need to take a really hard look at it because it’s losing momentum for us in games.” Evander Kane leads the team with 12 goals and 23 points - five (two goals) in the last five games - and Eichel (19 points) owns two goals in three contests.
1. The Lightning have won five straight at Buffalo and are 11-1-0 in the last 12 in the series between Atlantic Division rivals.
2. The Sabres have not received a goal from a defenseman this season while Tampa Bay has 14 from its blueliners.
3. Buffalo F Jacob Josefson aggravated an ankle injury in Saturday’s loss and is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks.
PREDICTION: Lightning 5, Sabres 1