Lightning at Sabres
Nikita Kucherov looks to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games when the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday in a battle between first- and last-place teams in the Atlantic Division. The 24-year-old Kucherov, who has recorded a league-leading 71 points, reached 30 goals for the third straight season with his third-period tally in the Lightning’s 4-3 setback at Toronto on Monday.
While Kucherov has posted six goals, eight assists and a plus-13 rating in 16 career games against the Sabres, Tampa Bay will seek a better defensive effort after allowing 15 tallies over their last four contests. The Lightning won the first meeting this season 2-0 on Nov. 28 at Buffalo, which will be without leading scorer Jack Eichel for the second straight game due to an ankle injury that will sideline him for at least a month. Buffalo had won two straight games before suffering a 5-4 loss to Colorado on Sunday and is just 7-16-4 on home ice this season. “We’ve got a lot to prove this season still,” Sabres first-year coach Phil Housley told the Buffalo News. “We’ve got a lot of games home here left. We want to win these games, not only for our fans, but to build on things. We’ve been playing pretty good on the road, and we have to turn that around at home.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Sun (Tampa Bay), MSG (Buffalo)
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (38-15-3): Yanni Gourde extended his point streak to six games with a goal on Monday and Alex Killorn remained hot with two points, giving him five tallies and five assists in his last six contests. Captain Steven Stamkos added an assist at Toronto and has notched 11 points in his last nine games to push his season total to 65, second only to Kucherov. Backup Louis Domingue (2-1-0, 3.00 goals-against average, .913 save percentage) is likely to make his fourth start with Tampa Bay after Andrei Vasilevskiy (league-best 33 wins) was in net on Monday.
ABOUT THE SABRES (16-30-10): Ryan O’Reilly is second on the team behind Eichel (53) with 40 points after registering three goals and two assists over his last four games. Evander Kane has scored in back-to-back contests, pulling him within two of his third straight 20-goal season and fourth overall, after suffering through a 14-game drought. Former second-overall draft pick Sam Reinhart has picked up his production level of late with a goal and five assists over the last four games to push his season total to 25 points.
1. Tampa Bay C Vladislav Namestnikov has posted just one point and a minus-4 rating in the last seven games.
2. Buffalo LW Benoit Pouliot has scored in back-to-back contests after enduring an eight-game drought.
3. The Lightning have won the last five meetings, outscoring the Sabres 15-6 during that stretch.