The Lightning look to open a season with six straight home wins for the first time in franchise history on Saturday, as they also try to avoid losing their fifth straight home game to the Sabres.
Tampa Bay (5-3-0) defeated Philadelphia 5-2 on Thursday and matched a franchise record with its fifth straight home victory to open a season. The Lightning didn’t win their fifth home game of 2006-07 until Nov. 17.
They are outscoring their opponents 21-8 at home this season, converting a league-best 30.4 percent (7 of 23) of their power plays while killing 90.9 percent (20 of 22) of their opponents’ opportunities.
“It should be that way,” said Tampa Bay center Brad Richards, who had his second multigoal game of the season on Thursday. “Last year we struggled at home for some reason, but it should be this way.
“Our team is built to play that uptempo style, and we’ve done that this year. We’re taking care of business here.”
Tampa Bay hasn’t had much success at home against Buffalo, though. The Lightning have not defeated the Sabres in front of the home fans since March 18, 2004, and are 6-13-2 with three ties all-time against them in Tampa.
The Lightning dropped three of four to Buffalo last season, and are 1-6-1 overall against Buffalo since Oct. 13, 2005.
The Sabres (4-5-0), meanwhile, are coming off a 4-2 win at Florida on Friday for its first road win in four tries this season. Drew Stafford broke a 2-2 tie with 8:48 left in the third as his shot bounced off Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun’s blocker high into the air before falling into the net.
“We’ve had some tough bounces go against us,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after his team also ended a three-game skid. “We got one there. But we got rewarded for putting the puck on net.”
Jason Pominville had two assists on Friday, and has three goals and two assists in his last three games against Tampa Bay.
Goaltender Ryan Miller stopped 33 shots on Friday, improving to 3-5-0 with a 3.15 goals-against average this season. Miller has been outstanding in his career against the Lightning, going 7-1-0 with a 2.23 GAA, and has won all four of his starts in Tampa, posting a 1.72 GAA.
Backup Jocelyn Thibault, who may start this game, has been nearly as impressive against the Lightning, going 12-4-0 with two ties, one shutout and a 2.41 GAA all-time.
Tampa Bay’s Vaclav Prospal scored his eighth goal on Thursday after tallying 14 in 82 games last season. He has scored six goals at home after finding the back of the net just four times there in 2006-07.
Vincent Lecavalier led the NHL with 52 goals last season, scoring four goals in four games against the Sabres. Lecavalier has a seven-game point streak against Buffalo with six goals and two assists in those contests.
Johan Holmqvist, who made 21 saves on Thursday, has been in net for all of Tampa Bay’s home games, posting a 1.61 GAA. Holmqvist has never faced the Sabres in his career, though, as Marc Denis started against them in all four meetings last season, recording a 4.03 GAA.