The Sabres face the league's top team in Tampa Bay

Chad Johnson will get the start in goal for Buffalo

Paul Hamilton
February 13, 2018 - 12:40 pm

Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - On Saturday, the Sabres beat the number two team in the NHL in Boston. Tonight, they get the number one team in the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa Bay has a points percentage of .705 while the Bruins are .704. That’s with a 4-3 loss on Monday in Toronto.

The Lightning have won seven out of 10 games and come in with the league’s second best power play. Helping to lead that PP is the NHL’s leading scorer in Nikita Kucherov. In 56 games the star Russian winger has 30 goals and 41 assists for 71 points.

Steven Stamkos is fourth in the league with 21 goals and 44 assists for 65 points. The Sabres have only played the Lightning once this season and Andrei Vasilevskiy posted a 34 save shutout.

When it comes to Stamkos and Kucherov, it’s hard to talk about point streaks because they never go too many games without a point.

Vasilevskiy was an All-Star in January and plays most of their games. He’s played in 47 of their 56 games. He hasn’t been quite as good lately giving up four or more goals in eight of his last 13 games.

Tampa Bay is on a nine game point streak against Buffalo going 8-0-1. Overall, they’re 15-2-1 in their last 18 games vs the Sabres. The Lightning have won six straight in Buffalo.

Chad Johnson will get his second start in two games for Buffalo. Robin Lehner had five go in on him against Colorado and Phil Housley said, “He’s played well the last game in Boston and we lost the game.”

Johnson had 25 saves in the win over the Bruins.

Johnson has lost all seven games he’s played in Buffalo going 0-5-2. On the road he’s 3-4-1.

Rasmus Ristolainen had what was probably the worst game of his career on Sunday. Phil Housley sat him for over a period at even strength. He played 23:48, but only 12 of those minutes were at even strength. Housley said he’s confident Ristolainen will be OK, “I don’t think we should make too big of a deal of it. He’s one of our top guys, he was just having a bad game and not every game is going to be great and I expect a great response from him.”

Benoit Pouliot has goals in two straight games, but it’s more than just scoring. The winger’s overall game is back to where it was in late October and early November. Housley said, “I’ve liked the speed and the tenaciousness. He’s skating really well, he’s getting into the hard areas and he’s had an impact on our team and that’s why he’s going to be playing with Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart tonight.”

Pouliot feels that the only way he’s going to be effective is to move his feet, “My skating has been good, so that’s my main thing.”

I think he’s been very good along the wall and in battles. The winger said, “It starts with skating. If I have my legs and I’m skating the way I should be, I’ll be in good position, I’ll be at the right spot, I’ll be stronger on the walls battling, so that’s the main thing I try to focus on.”

With power play goals in 13 out of 18 games in which they’ve gotten a PP opportunity, the Sabres have gone from last in the NHL, to 24th with the extra man. Buffalo is 23rd on the penalty kill.

In a quirky stat, the Sabres lead the league with nine shorthanded goals scored, but they’re second last in the league giving up nine shorthanded goals too.

 

Tuesday’s Lines:

Pouliot - O’Reilly - Reinhart

Wilson - Larsson - Pominville

Kane - Rodrigues - Okposo

Girgensons - Josefson - Baptiste

 

Scandella - Nelson

Beaulieu - Ristolainen

Falk - Antipin

Gorges - Nolan

 

Join Schopp and the Bulldog at 6:00 for the pregame show live from (716) Food and Sport when they’ll be joined by Phil Housley, Benoit Pouliot and Jacob Josefson.

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