The Buffalo Sabres have never been swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and their playoff chances will be much-improved if they avoid the sweep in Tampa on Monday night (7:30 p.m., MSG).
Buffalo did itself no favors Saturday, losing a 3-2 shootout decision to the Florida Panthers. That was the second straight game that the Sabres lost in a shootout and fourth straight that went to overtime.
"Any point you lose right now is a lot," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Even a half point would be a lot. Any point we lose right now is a lot. We’ve got to move on to the next game and try to get two."
The Sabres got some help Sunday, as the Blackhawks beat the Washington Capitals, allowing Buffalo to remain two points behind the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. So with a Sabres win and Caps regulation loss monday at teh Detroit Red Wings, the Sabres will move into an eighth-place tie. And the Carolina Hurricanes did the Sabres a huge favor by scoring a late goal to beat the Winnipeg Jets in regulation, allowing the Sabres to remain tied the Jets for ninth.
But the Sabres could still be caught from behind, as well, by several teams – including Tampa, which enters Monday's game five points behind Buffalo. The Bolts have dropped five of seven games, though, to pretty much put the lights out on their playoff hopes.
"We're not giving up," Lightning forward Teddy Purcell said. "It's easy to get down on ourselves and easy to fold the tent in, but you really show who you are when you've got some adversity."
Nathan Gerbe is still questionable Monday with an upper body injury. Defenseman Tyler Myers will serve the final game of a three-game suspension Monday that he got for boarding from behind.
Steven Stamkos leads Tampa – and the NHL with 50 goals. He also paces the Bolts with 84 points, while Martin St. Louis leads the team with 41 assists. All that offense has been needed to keep Tampa competitive, as the team of Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon has combined to allow 3.34 goals per game in 2011-12.
All three wins that Tampa has over Buffalo this season have come in regulation.
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