Dan Bylsma doesn't talk much about "four-point games."
"I sometimes struggle with that math," the Sabres head coach said after his team practiced Wednesday in KeyBank Center.
But he knows the opportunity for his team as they travel to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night.
The Lightning are one point ahead of the Sabres in the Atlantic Division standings and the Bolts are on a four-game losing streak, giving up 22 goals in that span.
"I think as you try to win hockey games and add points to your column, you’re always keeping an eye on the standings, you’re always keeping an eye on the teams ahead of you and you’re hoping they don’t get points when you are getting points," Bylsma said.
"The divisional games are the ones where you have direct control of that. We’ve got Tampa Bay right in front of us with a couple games at hand," said Bylsma as the Sabres have played two fewer games than the Lightning "and this is an opportunity for us. They call these four-point games. I sometimes struggle with that math but it’s two we can get and two we can prevent them from getting and they’re critical for us."
The Lightning saw goaltender Ben Bishop as a full participant in practice on Wednesday. Bishop suffered a lower-body injury during a 4-1 win against Detroit on Dec. 20. His return is quicker than anticipated and sorely needed. Without Bishop, Tampa Bay has gone 3-5-1.
The Sabres lost forward Derek Grant after the Nashville Predators claimed him off waivers Wednesday morning.
Placing Grant on waivers was seen as a move to increase depth in the organizational system, but came with the risk of another team picking him up.
"That was part of the plan there," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "Obviously we knew it was a possibility. Hopefully Derek's got an opportunity for Derek going to Nashville.We thought with Cal O'Reilly being a center we could call up as part of the plan as well."
And to clarify, there are no plans to call up Cal O'Reilly.
Grant had no goals and three assists in 35 games while taking just 31 shots. He has never scored in 75 NHL games.
Bylsma also said that Tyler Ennis would not be playing in the Tampa Bay game although the forward seems closer to returning. At Wednesday's optional practice in KeyBank Center, Bylsma put Ennis through some intense skating drills in the neutral zone.
The Sabres announced the return of Report Card Nights for the 7 p.m. games on Friday, Jan. 20 against the Detroit Red Wings and Saturday, Feb. 4 against the Ottawa Senators.
Students from kindergarten through 12th grade who have an A or an A-equivalent on their most recent report card will earn one free 300 Level II ticket to one of the games. Additional tickets can be purchased for $40. One winner will be chosen at random to win a $500 contribution to a NY 529 College Savings Program.
The offer can be redeemed at the KeyBank Center box office or online at sabres.com/reportcard. Students must bring their report card to the box office to receive their free ticket.
Kraft Hockeyville USA has opened again this season, allowing communities to share their storIes about their local rink, teams, hockey spirit and passion. The winning community hosts an NHL preseason game televised live on NBCSN and $150,000 in arena upgrades.
The Sabres played a preseason game at last year's winner in Marquette, Michigan. Nominations are open through March 10 at www.KraftHockeyville.com.