Here's a must-get two points as the Sabres host the last-place Tampa Bay Lightning in HSBC Arena. Just can't fritter this game away. Especially against a team you're already 3-0 against, albeit with two of the wins on Thomas Vanek goals in OT. Speaking of Vanek, he's got one point in eight games. Would be nice to have a Vanek sighting tonight, wouldn't it?
Ryan Miller and Karri Ramo are the goaltenders, with the Lightning giving recently acquired Mike Smith a night off even though he's coming off a shutout. Check out the Sabres' starting lineup: Mair-Kaleta-Stafford-Sekera-Weber. Nice confidence in the young guys.
SCORING CHANGES: In the choas of everything that happened, Thomas Vanek has been credited with three straight goals -- his second natural hat trick against the Lightning in HSBC this season. No goals for Roy. The slapshot that tied the game at 4-4 apparently was tipped by Vanek in front. So Vanek has 31 goals and Roy stays at 29. And get this: The Sabres are now the highest-scoring team in the NHL with 234 goals, one more than Montreal.
14:00 left: OK, we've had some technical glitches and lost a couple posts But it's now 4-3 as Jason Pominville scores on a Gaustad feed with 14:37 left and Hecht snaps home his career-high 20th just 16 seconds later. No more boos. Imagine that. Looks and sounds a lot like the last time the Lightning was here, when Vanek's natural hat trick turned defeat into victory.
On the Teppo front, Darcy Regier told us between periods that Numminen will be back at practice tomorrow but remains suspended until he's able to play in a game. Regier also revealed that Numminen has a grievance going through the NHLPA. Numminen told me on Jan. 12 that no such grievance was ongoing so that must have come up in the last two months.
11:35 left: You gotta be kidding me. Roy rifles one from the left circle over Ramo's shoulder while reunited with Vanek and Stafford and it's 4-4. Roy's 30th. What in the world was said in the dressing room in that second intermission? Shots are 10-1.
6:46 left: A Vanek sighting! He outmuscles a defender and sweeps it home for his 29th to make it 5-4. His fifth of the year against the Lightning and ninth in 12 career games against Tampa. Just his second goal of the month. Unbelievable.
3:53 left: This seems like last season all over again. Roy steals the puck at the blue line and Vanek grabs the rebound out of the air for his 30th to make it 6-4.
1:36 left: The net is empty but Drew Stafford is going off for high sticking. Shots are 15-4 for Buffalo in this period. Great news out of town: The Caps are down, 4-0, in Chicago late in the first period.
5.5 left: Hecht's empty netter makes it 7-4. SIX goals in the third period! A potential season-saver.
This just in: Darcy Regier is going to meet with the media in the second intermission and announce that Teppo Numminen is rejoining the team at tomorrow's practice. We don't know exactly what that means yet (Is he off the suspended list? Has he been cleared to play? Is he just rejoining practice?), but we're going to find out.
19:08 left: Shane O'Brien goes off for tripping a few seconds after Miller robbed Martin St. Louis from the slot. A few seconds earlier, Vanek made a brutal pass up the middle in his own zone that was intercepted but was barely offside. His line came off, Lindy Ruff was shaking his head behind the bench and barked at the struggling No. 26.
14:54 left: Let's see if the Vanek line is on the ice any time soon. They were standing all around as Martin St. Louis found Vincent Lecavalier to the left of a sprawling Miller for a quick shot under the bar to make it 3-1.
9:55 left: The Lecavalier goal has ground this game to a halt. The Lightning is just playing a boring road game now to protect a two-goal lead and kudos to them. Buffalo has just one shot on goal in this period (Tampa has three).
4:01 left: Earth to Vanek: WAKE UP. He hasn't caught a pass clean all night and couldn't connect this time with Ramo out of position as Mathieu Darche saved Ramo's bacon.
1:49 left: Now the boos are really raining down as Lecavalier streaks past Mair and Lydman and puts it home to make it 4-1. This is an utter disaster.
End of the 2nd: BOOOOOOOOOOO. Not even a power play helps. It's 4-1 Bolts after two and shots were 7-2 for Tampa in that period. Yes, two. Miller averted further disaster when he stopped St. Louis on a breakaway in the final 10 seconds.
17:10 left: There's a bad start. Derek Roy gets stripped at the Lightning line while the defense was changing and Jeff Halpern skates down and burns Miller with a slapshot on the short side. 1-0, Bolts.
13:23 left: The Sabres have a 5-1 edge in shots but still trail. Speaking of Vanek, he's on what's essentially the fourth line. Kaleta-Mair-Stafford started, followed by Gaustad-Hecht-Pominville, Paille-Roy-Bernier and finally Vanek-Kotalik-Afinogenov. On defense, it's Sekera-Weber, Lydman-Tallinder and Funk-Pratt. Peters is a healty scratch and the injured are Connolly, Spacek, Kalinin, Paetsch and Ryan. Good sign in the crowd: "Will trade sister for playoff berth."
10:42 left: A pretty dominant power play has resulted in five more Buffalo shots but no goals as Alexandre Picard fished it out. It ended with a big scrum -- featuring a Maxim Afinogenov headlock of Halpern. Cool. But Afinogenov and Bernier both got roughing calls while only Picard went for Tampa.
9:24 left: The uneven penalties on the scrum really hurt. Dan Boyle's shot from the left point is tipped by Martin St. Louis past Miller to make it 2-0. Shots are 10-4 and the Sabres are in a big hole as Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" is piping through the building. Good call.
6:53 left: Vanek might be absent this month but Jason Pominville has been one of the league's best players and might get to keep the "C" permanently. His booming slapshot from the right wing cuts it to 2-1 and put the population at 25. And the crowd is right back in it. Except for the folks in Section 312, whose Pominville Population countdown sign is missing tonight. Boooooo.
End of the 1st: It's still 2-1 for Tampa although the Sabres had a 14-7 edge in shots in the period.
taggedSabres game day