NHL Betting Preview: Tampa Bay at Buffalo Sabres

By: David Schwab | Monday, April 4, 2011

The Tampa Bay Lightning will try and extend their current winning streak to six games when they tangle with the Buffalo Sabres this Tuesday at HSBC arena. Game time is set for 4 p.m. (PT) and it will be broadcast locally on the MSG Network.

Tampa Bay is heading into the postseason with a full head of steam after running its league-best winning streak to five games with a 2-0 shutout of Chicago as a 180 road underdog on Sunday. This followed a 3-1 victory over Minnesota on Saturday as a 141 road favorite.

The Lightning are now 44-24-11 straight-up (39-40 against the spread) and just one point behind Pittsburgh for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference with a total of 99 points. Each team has three regular season games left on their schedule.

This team is ranked eighth in the league in scoring with an average of 2.91 goals a game, but has elevated that to 3.2 over the past five games. Center Steven Stamkos leads Tampa Bay in goals with 44, but Martin St. Louis has been the primary offensive force this season with 30 goals and 64 assists. His 94 total points is second in the NHL only to Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin, who has 100.

One injury concern for this game is with center Vincent Lecavalier, who is listed as day-to-day after taking a high-stick to the face against the Blackhawks.

Goalie Dwayne Roloson has started 52 of Tampa’s 78 games this season and should be between the pipes for this one. He has a 2.57 goals-against average and a save percentage of .915. The Lightning are giving up an average of 2.92 goals a game, which is ranked 23rd in the league.

Buffalo is coming off a 2-1 overtime victory over Carolina, as a 127 road underdog, that did wonders for its playoff hopes.

The Sabres are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference standings with a total of 90 points and three games left to play, while the Hurricanes were left stuck at 87 points and in ninth-place with three games left as well. The New York Rangers currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with 89 points.

There are some major injury concerns for Buffalo heading into this game with goalie Ryan Miller, center Jochen Hecht and right winger Mike Grier each currently out of the lineup. All three missed Sunday’s game against Carolina and remain listed as day-to-day.

The Sabres are averaging 2.87 goals a game led by left winger Thomas Vanek, who has 28 goals and a team-high 67 points and right winger Drew Stafford, who lead the team with 30 goals. Buffalo has managed to win five of its last seven games, but have only averaged 2.29 goals during this stretch.

If Miller is not ready to go by Tuesday, look for Jhonas Enroth to get the start in goal for Buffalo. Enroth has started 11 games this season and has a GGA of 2.53 and a .915 save percentage, which are actually slightly better  numbers than Miller’s. The Sabres are ranked 16th in the NHL in goals allowed; giving up an average of 2.77 a game.

Tampa Bay is 23-19 this season as a favorite and 21-16 as an underdog. The total has stayed ‘under’ in its last three games but has gone ‘over’ in 42 of 79 games overall.

Buffalo is 21-21 as a favorite and 19-18 as an underdog this year. The total has stayed ‘under’ in three of its last five games but has gone ‘over’ in 39 of 79 games overall.

Head-to-head, the Sabres have won seven of the last 10 games but the Lightning have a 2-1 edge in this season’s series. Tampa came away with a 2-1 win as a 128 road underdog on Nov.20 and a 3-1 victory as a 119 home favorite on Dec. 18, but Buffalo pasted the Lightning 7-4 as a 118 road underdog on Feb.8. The total stayed ‘under’ in first two meetings this year.

This time around the Sabres should open as a slight home favorite with a total line of 5½. Tampa comes in with the hot-hand, but stick with Buffalo to scrape out a win as it needs one much more than the Lightning do at this point.

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