Two teams looking for momentum will go at it in Buffalo on Friday night as the hometown Sabres welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning to the KeyBank Center. Buffalo got off to a red hot start this season but have lost three straight and are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. Tampa Bay was expected to fall short of last year’s epic point total but they’ve been treading water since the season began. Tampa finds themselves in sixth place in the Atlantic Division with a 6-5-2 record for 14 points. They’ve gone 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and have only two victories in their last six games.
The Lightning are finally showing some potency in their offense but are still ranking just #9 in goals scored per game with 3.31. The problem with the Lightning has been their defense and goaltending. The Lightning rank #27 in goals against per game allowing 3.62 opposing scores per contest. The goaltending hasn’t played up to their abilities but the defense hasn’t done their part either allowing 35 shots per game against. They’re getting 30.9 shots per game which is #17 in the league. Special teams have been good and bad–good on the power play where the Lightning are hitting on 22.9% of man advantage opportunities ranking #8 in the league. The penalty kill has been awful, however, ranking #27 with a 72.9% kill rate.
The Sabres have lost 4 of 5 and with the exception of a 6-1 loss at Washington on November 1 they’ve not been bad on defense. The Sabres are in a #7 tie on the goals against per game table allowing 2.60 per contest. The offense hasn’t been bad but has slumped a bit of late at #17 in the league with 2.93 goals per game. The Sabres’ power play has remained strong ranking #3 in the NHL hitting on 26.9% of opportunities. The penalty kill has been mediocre at best, ranked #18 in the NHL with a 80.5% kill percentage.
Pretty simple handicap based on value. Sabres have been good at home going 5-1-1 while Tampa Bay has been mediocre on the road going 4-4-1. The Lightning have been one of the most perpetually overvalued teams in hockey over the past couple of years and given the current form of both teams there’s no reason they should be such a big favorite here. We’ll take the Sabres at a decent price.