The Buffalo Sabres would like to forget their last outing, as they had one of their worst performances of the season. Fortunately, they should be able to bounce back against their next opponent.
The Northeast Division leaders look to continue their dominance over the Tampa Bay Lightning when they meet on Thursday night at HSBC Arena.
Buffalo (6-1-2) entered Monday’s game against Ottawa allowing a league-low 1.6 goals per game. But its defense wasn’t sharp as it gave up the first five goals en route to a 5-2 loss, making the Sabres the last Eastern Conference team to lose in regulation.
“We’re going to dump this one in the trash can and move on,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
Ryan Miller was given the night off on Monday, but is expected to be back in goal against one of his favorite opponents. Miller, who is 5-0-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average this season, has been in net for each of the Sabres’ games against the Lightning (2-3-3) since 2005-06.
Miller has gone 11-1-0 with a 2.47 GAA in those contests, and has led Buffalo to victory in each of the last five meetings The Sabres have outscored Tampa Bay 54-30 in those 12 games.
Thomas Vanek had no trouble lighting the lamp in four meetings last season. Buffalo’s top offensive threat recorded a hat trick in each of his last two games against the Lightning, and had seven goals and one assist versus them in 2007-08.
Vanek hopes to get back on track on Thursday, as he has just one goal and one assist in his last four games after recording seven goals and two assists in his first five.
Tampa Bay defeated Toronto 3-2 on Tuesday, and has won two of its last three games after losing five straight to start the season.
Vincent Lecavalier scored a pair of highlight-reel goals against the Maple Leafs to give him five tallies in his last six games.
“He’s an immense talent, he’s one of the top-10 most talented players in the world,” Lightning coach Barry Melrose said of Lecavalier.
Although his team hasn’t had much success against the Sabres lately, Lecavalier has an 11-game point streak against them, tallying nine goals and six assists in those contests.
Goaltender Mike Smith would like to see Lecavalier and the rest of the Lightning offense break out of their scoring rut. Smith has been solid in net, going 2-2-2 with a 2.11 GAA in 2007-08, but hasn’t had much help from his offense, which is last in the NHL with 14 goals scored.
Smith, who has never faced the Sabres, had another busy day on Thursday, as he made 37 saves. It was the fourth time in six starts this season in which he has stopped at least 37 shots.
Backup Olaf Kolzig, who is 0-1-1 with a 3.00 GAA so far, is 2-4-0 with a 3.08 GAA in seven games against the Sabres since the start of the 2006-07 season.