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Sabres at Lightning: Five Things to Know

TAMPA -- The road ends here.  Game 82 for the Sabres -- the final one until the 2017-18 season cranks up in October -- is today at 5 in Amalie Arena against the Tampa Bay Lightning. You can tune in on MSG with Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray on the call.

The game is now meaningless in the standings because the Lightning were eliminated from the playoffs when the Toronto Maple Leafs beat Pittsburgh last night.

Here are Five Things to Know about today's game:

In the standings, Buffalo:  The Sabres are 1-4 in their last five games and need a point to avoid finishing last in the Atlantic Division for the third time in four years. They have 78 points and are one ahead of Detroit, which hosts New Jersey today at 5 in the final game at Joe Louis Arena. The Sabres have a tiebreaker edge.

In the standings, Tampa: The Bolts will miss the postseason for the first time since the 2012-13 season, ending a stretch of three straight seasons making the playoffs. They're 19-6-4 since Feb. 4, tied with Chicago for the second-best point percentage in the NHL (.724) behind only Washington (.733). But they entered February in the bottom three of the Eastern Conference and the hill proved too tall to climb, particularly with Steven Stamkos out since mid-November with a knee injury.

A new man in net: The Sabres are going to give Linus Ullmark his first start in goal this season and he'll go against Tampa's Andrei Vasilevskiy (22-17-7, 2.62/.917). Ullmark went 25-26-2/2.86/.909 this year in 53 games with Rochester. He played 20 games for the Sabres last season, going 8-10-2/2.60/.913.

"Development for Linus this year has been a lot of games and lot of shots and he's done extremely well with that workload," coach Dan Bylsma said today. "He's demonstrated he can do it over a weekend playing back to back games and the number of games he's played. He's getting an opportunity tonight to show what kind of goalie he can be."

Tough times vs. Tampa: The Sabres are 0-2-1 against the Lightning this year and the Bolts are trying to sweep Buffalo in a season series for the first time since their 26-year history. Tampa Bay has won 10 of its last 11 meetings with Buffalo and is 13-2-1 against the Sabres since 2013-14. The Bolts are also on a seven-game home point streak versus Buffalo (6-0-1).

Power play leaders: The Sabres remain atop the NHL on the power play at 24.6 percent, just ahead of Toronto (24.2).  Buffalo has not finished a season ranked in the top five in power-play percentage since 2005-06 season (third, 21.2 percent) and the team has led the league only once (1991-92, 22.5 percent). The current figure is Buffalo's best since its 25.4 percent mark in 1975-76.

"Our power play has been good all year long and that needs to be an indicator of where you are in the standings," Bylsma said. "We just haven't been able to make that come true."

The Sabres' main problem is that they're 28th in the league in 5-on-5 scoring with just 124 goals, ahead of only New Jersey and Colorado.

 

 

 

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