The Buffalo Sabres will have plenty of local heroes on the ice when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday afternoon in the 2019 Global Series at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden. Buffalo defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Lawrence Pilut, along with forwards Marcus Johansson, Johan Larsson and Victor Olofsson, return to their home country for the first of a two-game set between the Atlantic Division rivals.
"They're excited, as they should be," Sabres wing Jeff Skinner told the Buffalo News of the quintet of Swedes. "We've got a lot of them and we can feed off that energy. It's going to be a fun night for everyone but obviously, for them, it's going to be extra special." Both teams should be fresh for the back-to-back as the Sabres dropped a 1-0 decision against the New York Islanders on Saturday in their last game while Tampa Bay lost against the same team one day earlier before getting on a plane. The time off has also given All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman - the Lightning's lone Swede - time to heal up a lower-body injury and the former Norris Trophy winner was on the ice for practice Tuesday and Thursday, but remains day-to-day. "Watching practice for two days wasn't what I expected when we knew we were going to be coming here," Hedman said Tuesday. "I was out there for a while and it felt good."
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ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (6-5-2): The top offensive players have not been quite as unstoppable in the first 13 games of the season and Tampa Bay entered Thursday fifth from the bottom in the league in goals-against per game (3.62). Captain Steven Stamkos leads the team with 13 points and his five goals leave him two shy of becoming the first in franchise history to reach 400, while reigning Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov has 11 points overall but one goal in the past nine games. Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy (5-4-0, .904 save percentage) has not been able to hold off the onslaught of shots against at times - 35 per game, third-most in the league through Wednesday - as the Lightning often struggle in their own end.
ABOUT THE SABRES (9-4-2): Buffalo comes to Sweden winless in its last three games (0-2-1), managing three goals combined, after earning points in 10 of the season's first 12 contests. Center Jack Eichel leads the team with 17 points despite a team-worst minus-5 rating, Skinner has equaled the captain with seven goals and Olofsson boasts six in his rookie season - all of them coming on the power play. Dahlin, who was third in the voting for the Calder Trophy last season as an 18-year-old, is tied with forward Sam Reinhart (five goals) for second on the team with 11 points while Johansson has four goals to go along with five assists, Larsson owns one of each and Pilut was recalled with blue liner Marco Sandella (lower body) out.
1. Tampa Bay LW Ondrej Palat shares the team lead with five goals and a plus-6 rating and is two shy of 200 for his career.
2. Buffalo G Carter Hutton (6-2-1, .928 SP) has allowed two or fewer goals in six of his nine starts this season.
3. The Sabres entered Thursday third in the NHL in power-play percentage (26.9) and the Lightning were 27th in penalty killing (72.9).