The Tampa Bay Lightning righted their ship while spending a lot of time in the Sunshine State during December and look to continue their ascent in the standings when they go on the road for 12 of the next 15 contests. The Lightning won the last three games at home and are 6-2-1 in the past nine - eight played in the state of Florida - and begin a four-game trip Tuesday night against the Atlantic Division-rival Buffalo Sabres.
Tampa Bay, which matched the NHL record with 62 wins last season, began 2019-20 with seven losses in 13 games (6-5-2) before slowly turning things around starting with consecutive wins over the Sabres at the NHL Global Series in Sweden on Nov. 8-9. "We've had to iron a few things out in the early segment of the year, but I think we are heading in the right direction right now," Lightning backup goalie Curtis McElhinney told reporters after making 19 saves in a 2-1 victory over Detroit on Sunday. "We're doing some good things, generating a lot of the play, and controlling a lot of situations." Buffalo began moving in the opposite direction just before the trip to Sweden and has lost 20 of its past 28 contests (8-14-6) after scoring just three times in three consecutive defeats, capped by a 3-2 setback at Boston on Sunday. "It's definitely painful at this moment because the effort was there right through," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger told reporters after the latest loss. "The way we played as a team here, we do this consistently, we're going to get results."
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Sun (Tampa Bay), MSG Buffalo
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (20-13-4): Defenseman Victor Hedman was named the NHL's No. 1 Star of the Week on Monday after posting two goals and six assists in the past three games to push his season total to 37 points - second on the club behind right wing Nikita Kucherov, who was kept off the scoresheet the past two contests. Center Brayden Point scored his team-leading 15th goal to break a 1-1 deadlock in the third period Sunday and has collected six of his 31 points over the last four contests. Andrei Vasilevskiy (16-9-2) will likely be back in net after winning his last two outings, and is 10-1-1 with a 1.65 goals-against average and .941 save percentage lifetime versus the Sabres.
ABOUT THE SABRES (17-16-7): Captain Jack Eichel has cooled off a bit with one point (assist) in his last three contests after recording at least one in his previous 18 outings, but leads the team with 24 goals and 52 points. Forward Sam Reinhart has been stuck on 99 career goals for the last eight games, but registered six assists in that stretch and is third on the team with 31 points - behind only Eichel and rookie forward Victor Olofsson (34). Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who owns a plus-5 rating in 2019-20 after finishing last season at minus-41, posted two of his four goals in the last four contests.
1. Buffalo D Rasmus Dahlin has been kept off the scoresheet in four straight games after recording eight points in the previous seven.
2. Tampa Bay D Braydon Coburn logged 13 minutes, 33 seconds of ice time Sunday after missing the previous 13 games with a lower-body injury.
3. The Sabres are 0-for-10 on the power play over the last four games while their penalty-killing unit gave up six in the past five contests.