Tampa Bay (44-24-11) at Buffalo (40-29-10)

By JON PALMIERI, STATS Editor Monday, Apr 4, 2011 Puck Drop: 7:00 pm EDT Tue Apr 5, 2011

Jhonas Enroth(notes) has come up huge for the Sabres at a critical time.

The backup goaltender will need at least one more big effort as Buffalo tries to move closer to locking up a playoff berth.

Enroth will start his fourth consecutive game Tuesday night when the Sabres host the Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of five straight.

With Ryan Miller(notes) - the league’s reigning Vezina Trophy winner - sidelined with an upper-body injury, Enroth has stepped in and led the Sabres (40-29-10) to two wins and an overtime loss in three starts. He has posted a 1.94 goals-against average in that span, and recorded his first career shutout in a 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

“I had a lot of confidence in him,” coach Lindy Ruff said of the backup, who is 7-2-2 with Buffalo after opening the season in the minors. “He’s got a great mentality. There’s nothing that bothers him. He’s one of those real low-key goaltenders that keeps everything under control.”

Miller has been ruled out from facing the Lightning (44-24-11), but could return by the weekend. The Sabres close the regular season at home against Philadelphia on Friday, and at Columbus the following day.

Enroth stopped 25 shots and Marc-Andre Gragnani(notes) scored in overtime Sunday, lifting Buffalo to a key 2-1 victory at Carolina.

“It is huge. I’m not going to sidestep that one - it is a big win for us,” Ruff said. “They win, and it’s a lot different scenario in the standings. Us winning, it gave us a little bit of an edge again.”

Ruff’s club is 6-1-2 in its last nine games overall, and has outscored opponents 7-2 during a three-game home win streak.

Buffalo dropped into eighth in the Eastern Conference after the Rangers beat Boston on Monday. The Sabres are one point behind New York and three ahead of ninth-place Carolina.

Already assured of returning to the playoffs after a three-year absence, Tampa Bay is trying to catch Pittsburgh for home ice in the opening round. The Lightning are one point behind the Penguins with three games remaining for both teams.

As important as seeding is, how a team is playing heading into the postseason may be more important to its success. Tampa Bay has to be happy with where it is right now. The Lightning have rebounded from a 1-6-4 funk with five straight wins, including an impressive 2-0 victory at Chicago on Sunday.

Backup Mike Smith(notes) made 31 saves for his first shutout in more than a year, and Vincent Lecavalier(notes) scored in the first period before leaving after he was accidentally high-sticked over the left eye.

“Every win is rewarding. But against the defending Stanley Cup champions, whenever you beat a team like that, it’s more rewarding,” Smith said.

Lecavalier, who needed three stitches to close a cut over his eye, is considered a game-time decision.

“Vinnie wanted to come back, but there was a lot of blood,” coach Guy Boucher said.

Both Tampa Bay goaltenders have been excellent lately.

Smith has allowed two goals in winning his last two starts, while Dwayne Roloson(notes) is 3-0-0 with a 1.33 GAA in his last three. Roloson, however, is 0-6-1 with one tie and a 4.23 GAA in eight career games against the Sabres.

The Lightning won the first two meetings of this season series. Drew Stafford’s(notes) hat trick helped the Sabres to a 7-4 road victory Feb. 8.

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