Sabres-Lightning Preview

The Associated Press

Steven Stamkos is the NHL's leading scorer and a meeting with one of the league's poorest defensive teams could keep him rolling.

It may also be just what the Tampa Bay Lightning need to get off to a strong start for a change.

Stamkos looks to extend his goal-scoring streak to six games Tuesday night when the Lightning attempt to capitalize on a meeting with the sputtering Buffalo Sabres.

Stamkos led the NHL with a career-high 60 goals last season, while his 97 points were also a personal-best but ranked second to Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin's 109.

The All-Star center is again scoring at an alarming pace, as his 29 points lead the league while his 13 goals are tied for first with the New York Islanders' John Tavares.

Stamkos has goals in five consecutive games and 12 points during a six-game streak, but Tampa Bay (9-8-1) is only 3-3-0 during that stretch. Poor starts have plagued the Lightning in each of those defeats, getting outscored 6-2 in the opening period.

That continued Sunday, when they surrendered three in the first before their comeback fell short in a 5-3 loss at Pittsburgh.

"You can't give a team like that a three-goal lead in the first," said Stamkos, who had one goal and two assists. "We made a game of it, we did a lot of positive things, but we're shooting ourselves in the foot."

That may change with a meeting against the Sabres (6-12-1), who are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and give up 3.2 goals per game.

Tampa Bay went 3-1-0 in last season's series, with Stamkos recording two goals and two assists. He has 15 points in 16 career meetings, seven coming in the past six at home.

Buffalo has been outscored 13-5 during a four-game losing streak and has lost six of seven. The Sabres have dropped their first two games since the firing of longtime coach Lindy Ruff.

Playing six of their next seven games on the road may not be a bad thing for a team that lost 4-0 at home to the Islanders on Saturday, prompting boos from the crowd that started in the second period. By the third, they turned their angry attention to general manager Darcy Regier, chanting "Goodbye, Darcy!"

"The fans are entitled to do what they want," left wing Thomas Vanek said. "I'm sure they're frustrated. They want a winning product on the ice, and so do we.

"We're a good team right now that finds a dumb way to lose."

Vanek had been one of the few bright spots thanks to a terrific start to the season that included 11 goals and 12 assists through the first 11 games. He's mustered only one of each in seven games since, going pointless in the last three.

Vanek, though, has 23 goals and 10 assists in 28 career meetings with Tampa Bay, tallying 10 points in the past six.

Buffalo captain Jason Pominville is also hoping a meeting with the Lightning can begin reversing his sluggish stretch. He has 35 points in 27 matchups with Tampa Bay, but enters this one with one goal in nine games overall after scoring six times with eight assists over the first 10.

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