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Special teams will tell a huge tale vs. Lightning

The Buffalo Sabres have been brutal on the penalty kill much of the season, languishing much of the year in last place in the NHL rankings. But the unit has found its way of late and just in the nick of time.

The Tampa Bay Lightning hit town Saturday night tied for the league lead on the power play with Toronto at 22.9 percent. The Sabres are third at 22.8 and play Sunday in Pittsburgh, which is fourth at 22.2.

The Sabres are 18 for 19 on the penalty kill over the last eight games -- after allowing seven power-play goals in the seven games before that. They've slipped out of last place to 29th overall at 76.1 percent (ahead of Dallas), and are 23rd at home.

"We're doing a good job," Ryan O'Reilly said today. "Obviously it was an issue for a while there and it's got to be better. You look at the better teams in the league and they all have good penalty kills. It's an important thing. We want to play aggressive, play physical.

"Seeing the way they move the puck, how quick it is, how dangerous they are, the key thing is staying out of the box. We have to stay in synch, working as a four-man unit."

The Lightning, however, have pillaged Buffalo by going 4 for 8 with the man advantage in the two previous meetings this season. Both were Tampa Bay victories.

Even without the injured Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay power play is deadly.

Nikita Kucherov leads Tampa with 12 power-play goals and is third in the league while Jonathan Drouin (7) and Tyler Johnson (6) have also been big contributors. Defenseman Victor Hedman leads the club with 25 power-play points, including 21 assists. He tops NHL blueliners in power play points and is tied with Phildelphia's Claude Girous for the most power-play assists in the league, one ahead of Buffalo's Rasmus Ristolainen.

The Lightning have 50 power-play goals on the season, already more than they've had in four of the last five seasons.

"Look at their team," Sabres winger Marcus Foligno said today. "Kucherov, Johnson, (Ondrej) Palat, Hedman on the back end. They've got a lot of weapons. We need a full team effort tonight and we have to keep them off the power play. We need an all-in game by our team and we have to stay out of the box."

Five Things to Know as Sabres host Lightning

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