Buffalo at Tampa Bay
When: 5:00 PM
ET, Sunday, April 9, 2017
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
One day after having their hopes for a fourth straight trip to the playoffs come to an end, the Tampa Bay Lightning will try to end an injury-plagued season on high note when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. The Lightning are 7-1-1 in their last nine games and won two straight do-or-die contests this week, but Toronto rallied to beat Pittsburgh 5-3 on Saturday and grabbed the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Tampa Bay can take solace in the way it finished the season without several key players due to injury and Nikita Kucherov has delivered his first 40-goal season while defenseman Victor Hedman has notched a career-high 70 points. The Lightning have had their way with the Sabres this season, winning all three encounters while surrendering a total of four goals. Buffalo will miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season and has struggled down the stretch with four losses in its last five games after suffering a 3-0 setback at Florida on Saturday. Jack Eichel leads the Sabres in scoring with 57 points in just 60 games after missing the first portion of the season due to injury.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, MSG (Buffalo), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE SABRES (33-36-12): Ryan O’Reilly has recorded eight points in his last 10 games and trails Eichel by three for the team scoring lead while Evander Kane tops Buffalo with 27 goals and needs one point to reach 300 for his career. Captain Brian Gionta also is close to a milestone with 298 assists but has registered just one in his last 12 contests. Goaltender Linus Ullmark was recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League with backup Anders Nilsson injured and may start Sunday after Robin Lehner played in Florida.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (41-30-10): Tampa Bay received big contributions from players that were not expected to make major impacts this season, which bodes well for the future. “What’s encouraging for us, these (rookies) that are new to this, they don’t seem to care (about the pressure),” coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “It doesn’t matter what league they’re playing in. They’re not afraid of the moment.” That list includes Yanni Gourde, who has posted five goals in his last seven games after scoring twice in Friday's win at Montreal.
1. Tampa Bay LW Ondrej Palat is finishing the season strong with 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) in his last 16 games.
2. Buffalo signed Sean Malone to a two-year entry-level contract Saturday and the former Harvard LW made his NHL debut against Florida, registering one shot in 12 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time.
3. The Sabres lead the league in power-play percentage (24.6) but have gone 0-for-7 with the man advantage over their last four games.
PREDICTION: Lightning 5, Sabres 2
Stats and Records