Monday, January 28, 2008

Sabres/Lightning Preview

This is the final push and here is the start. Game 49 is against the Lightning and the push for the playoffs starts now. The Sabres are in the 14th position with 48 points while the Lightning are in the 15th position looking up with 45 points. Each team is within striking distance of the 8th and final playoff position since the Sabres are 6 points out of that spot. The Sabres are going to play without the services of Tim Connolly for what looks like the rest of the season. A bone spur was found in his hip and while it can be played with, it is an extremely painful injury to play through and will most likely result in surgery at the end of the season. Afinogenov's groin injury is looking better and he looks on the path to recovery and may be seen within the next week or two. Mike Ryan has been cleared to practice since the accidental eye injury he suffered in the Thrashers blowout. The Sabres look poised to start the playoff push and a win against the Lightning is a good way to start.

The Lightning are looking healthier with the return of Dan Boyle against the Senators. Boyle had a freak wrist injury at the start of the season when a skate fell off a hook and sliced tendons in his wrist. Brad Richards may not play in this game because it has been reported that he has mono. While he wont admit to this, it seems to be confirmed. When you face the Lightning, the main thing you focus on is stopping the Big Three in Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Richards. These guys are the majority of the offense for the Lightning and if you can shut them down, you stand a good chance of winning the game. The Bolts have had issues in net all season, with the starter now being Holmqvist. But the goaltending has been an issue for the Bolts and will continue to be until they find a good and reliable number one goalie.

The Sabres really need to build off the win against the Stars and the Bolts are the perfect trap game to face. A down and out team can always play the role of spoiler especially since this game is nationally on Versus. The Sabres need to show up for a full 60 minutes and play a game with heart, something that we don't see much of this season. Here are the stats:

Buffalo Sabres Leaders
Goals: Roy (18)
Assists: Pominville (27)
Points: Pominville (38)
Plus/Minus: Paille (+11)
Penalty Minutes: Gaustad and Peters (58)
Majors: Peters (8)
Minors: Lydman (22)

Tampa Bay Lightning Leaders
Goals: Lecavalier (30)
Assists: St. Louis (40)
Points: Lecavalier (66)
Plus/Minus: Ouellet (+6)
Penalty Minutes: O'Brien (101)
Majors: Roy (8)
Minors: O'Brien (28)

Goalie Stats
Buffalo: Miller - 2.49 GAA, .911 SV%, 1 SO; Thibault - 3.71 GAA, .859 SV%, 1 SO
Tampa Bay: Holmqvist - 2.96 GAA, .891 SV%, 2 SO; Ramo - 3.37 GAA, .884 SV%; Denis - 4.05 GAA, .859 SV%

Special Teams
Buffalo: Power Play (17.1%, 18th); Penalty Kill (84.2%, 7th)
Tampa Bay: Power Play (18.1%, 13th); Penalty Kill (80.4%, 24th)

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