NHL Hockey: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Buffalo Sabres

Daytime hockey in Sweden on Saturday as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres play a rematch of their Friday matchup at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm. On Friday, Tampa Bay scrapped out a 3-2 win which they desperately needed to stay in the mix in the Atlantic Division. As it happened, the division leading Boston Bruins were upset by the Red Wings in Detroit and among the top five teams the Toronto Maple Leafs were the only winner on the night. This served to tighten up the standings in the Atlantic even more. Boston still leads with 24 points but the Toronto Maple Leafs are now just 3 points back with Buffalo 4 points back. Florida and Montreal are tied with 19 points putting them 5 points out of the lead and Tampa Bay has 16 points leaving them 8 points behind the Bruins.

They didn’t exactly put on an offensive show on Friday but the Tampa Bay Lightning are starting to revive their offense after a slow start to the season. They’re up to #10 on the goals per game table with 3.31. Buffalo is #17 in that category with 2.93 goals per game. The Lightning’s problem has been keeping pucks out of their own net. Tampa is #27 in team defense allowing 3.62 goals per game. Buffalo has a big statistical edge here–they’re #7 in team defense at 2.60 goals against per game. Both teams have excelled on the power play–Buffalo has the #3 power play in the NHL hitting on 26.9% of man advantage opportunities. Tampa is right behind at #6 hitting on 22.9%. Neither team has been great on the kill but Buffalo has at least qualified as ‘mediocre’ ranking #27 with a 72.9% kill percentage. Buffalo is #17 with 80.5%.

Tampa Bay went with Andrei Vasilevskiy on Friday night which means they’ll come back with backup Curtis McElhinney in the second of back to back. The veteran hasn’t been in particularly good form this year with a 1-1-2 record, a 3.94 goals against average and a 0.899 save percentage. He’ll face former Nashville Predators backup Carter Hutton (projected) who has put up solid numbers this season. Hutton is 6-2-1 with a 2.09 goals against average and a 0.928 save percentage with 2 shutouts. Many hockey writers have suggested that he’s ‘overachieving’ but his performance is not a shock to Predators’ fans who hated to lose him to free agency.

No line posted yet but when it goes up the Sabres are the play. Handicapping 101 suggests going with the team that lost in the first game of a ‘quick rematch’ situation and that’s definitely what we have here.


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