Buffalo Sabres Game Preview #24 – Tampa Bay Lightning 11/25/19

Sabres Projected Lines:

Jimmy Vesey – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart

Jeff Skinner – Casey Mittelstadt Rodrigues – Conor Sheary

Victor Olofsson – Rasmus Asplund – Curtis Lazar

Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Jean-Sebastian Dea (or Brandon Montour)

Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen

Rasmus Dahlin – Zach Bogosian

Marco Scandella – Henri Jokiharju

Carter Hutton

*No morning skate, lines are not confirmed.

Lightning Projected Lines:

Ondrej Palat– Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov

Carter Verhaeghe – Tyler Johnson – Cory Conacher

Alex Killorn – Anthony Cirelli – Mathieu Joseph

Patrick Maroon – Cedric Pauquette – Yanni Gourde

Victor Hedman – Kevin Shattenkirk

Ryan McDonagh – Erik Cernak

Mikael Sergachev – Jan Rutta

Andrei Vasilevskiy

3 Things To Watch:

Jumpstart Mittelstadt’s Season

It’s been over a full calendar month since Casey Mittelstadt’s last point (October 22 vs San Jose). With Evan Rodrigues out tongith, it’s safe to assume Mittelstadt will take his spot centering the second line between Skinner and Sheary.

Playing with those two instead of Asplund and Olofsson will increase the likelihood of Mittelstadt finding his way on the scoresheet.

While he hasn’t been a detriment to the Sabres, the lack of scoring is certainly felt. In 106 career NHL games, Mittelstadt has 37 points. Yes, he’s still incredibly young, but everyone expected more out of the seventh overall pick in 2017.

Shutdown Tampa’s First Powerplay Unit

With Stamkos out tonight, the Lightning have a powerplay situation much like the Sabres. Their first unit is loaded while their second unit looks far less impactful on paper.

Their first unit consists of:

Hedman – Johnson – Killorn – Kucherov – Point

Pretty solid if you ask me. Yes, Stamko’s presence will be missed, but there are a few passers (Hedman, Johnson and Point), a net front presence (Killorn) and a lethal shooter (Kucherov).

If the Sabres can kill off the part of penalties where they’re facing the first unit, they should be able to escape with limited to no damage on special teams tonight.

Tampa’s second unit consists of:

Gourde – Maroon – Palat – Shattenkirk – Sergachev

Just because their second unit isn’t loaded with skill, it doesn’t mean the Sabres can fall asleep out there. Contain the puck, get sticks in passing lanes, lock up guys in front so they can’t tip shots and clear out traffic immediately when pucks get through.

If the Sabres succeed in stopping the Lightning when on the man advantage, the odds of success tonight greatly increases.

Return to Buffalo without more injuries

With Rodrigues going down yesterday, the Sabres are already thin on offense. That being said, we know the kind of game Tampa will play.

Everyone knows about Kucherov’s move that took out the legs of Sobotka and Cernak waiting until the he has the ref’s back to him to try to take Eichel’s arm off.

The Sabres can’t play into a game of retaliation or run around looking for payback. Not to say they will, Krueger doesn’t seem like the kind of coach that condones that behavior, but they will have to stay the course and play a hard, legal 60 minutes.

My biased thoughts against Tampa playing dirty dates back to 2014 when Victor Hedman took out Zemgus Girgensons very late that sparked a brawl. (Sabres legend Mike Weber might have started this by going after Stamkos a bit earlier in the game, but this was significantly worse). The positive that came out of this? Girgensons gave Pauquette an absolute licking.

Also, getting Zach Bogosian back can ease some worries as we know he’s a willing combatant when it comes to defending teammates.

Player To Watch: Tampa Bay

At the beginning of August, the New York Rangers boughtout the remaining two years of Kevin Shattenkirk‘s contract paying him $6.6 million AAV, releasing him to free agency.

At the time, Tampa Bay didn’t have much wiggle room with the cap and had a need in their top four on the right side with the departure of Anton Stralman.

The 30 year old Shattenkirk took a steep decrease in pay while at the same time betting on himself. A few days after his buyout, Shattenkirk signed with the Lightning for one year at $1.75 million.

Let’s just say it’s working out well for both sides. Shattenkirk has five goals and 11 assists in 20 games, while his advanced analytics looks very good as well. Shattenkirk is reviving his career a bit and the Lightning have a low cost player performing extremely well.

Player To Watch: Buffalo

Yeah, it’s definitely Jack Eichel again. Why wouldn’t it be? He’s on another level right now. In his last seven games, Eichel has seven goals and five assists.

He’s putting the Sabres on his back through the tough stretch of injuries plaguing the organization as a whole. He’s been the Sabres best player and it’s not even close. Buffalo needs Eichel again tonight if they want to end their Florida trip on a high note.

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