Sabres try to stay hot against visiting Bolts

The surging Buffalo Sabres will try to post their longest winning streak of the season tonight, when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at First Niagara Center.

Buffalo has notched wins in its last three outings and is one victory shy of matching a four-game winning streak from Nov. 4-11. The Sabres have also recorded a point in six consecutive tests, going 5-0-1 during that stretch.

Neither Buffalo nor the Lightning are currently in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Sabres are seeded 11th and are eight points out of a postseason berth, while Tampa is two points in back of Buffalo.

The Sabres were in action on Friday against visiting Dallas and Buffalo was able to pull out a 3-2 shootout win. Nathan Gerbe scored the winner in the fifth round of the shootout, but that was after Derek Roy sent the game to overtime by scoring just 39 seconds before the end of regulation.

Roy and Thomas Vanek both scored in regulation for the Sabres, while Ryan Miller made 24 stops in the win.

"We were able to keep at it tonight and make some plays," said Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff. "We need to get some more of these wins to get back in the hunt. But that was an important point for us."

Buffalo is 2-0 on a four-game homestand that is set to end Tuesday against New Jersey. The Sabres are 13-9-6 as the hosting team this season.

Sabres forward Cody McCormick left Friday's game in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. He is questionable for tonight's tilt.

Although the Lightning have lost three of their last four games, Tampa still has only one regulation loss over its last nine trips to the ice (6-1-2). The Bolts were dealt a second straight setback Thursday against the New York Rangers, dropping a 4-3 overtime decision in the opener of a three-game road trip.

Tampa Bay held a 3-2 lead over the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers after 40 minutes, but Brian Boyle's tally at 10:13 of the third would send the game to overtime. Former Lightning forward Brad Richards then scored 2:37 into the extra session to give the Rangers their extra point.

Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Bruno Gervais had goals for Tampa Bay, while Mathieu Garon gave up four goals on 31 shots. Stamkos has four goals and four assists during a five-game point streak and is leading the NHL with 36 goals.

"We played a pretty solid game (but) we missed some opportunities to get a two-goal lead," said Lecavalier. "It definitely could have gone either way tonight."

Poor road play has been a problem for Tampa all season long. The club is just 8-16-4 as the guest this year compared to a 15-8-2 mark as the host. Improved play away from the Tampa Times Forum will likely be necessary if the Lightning want to make the playoffs, as the Bolts are currently 10 points out of a playoff spot in the East.

Tampa hopes to get a boost from a returning player tonight, as forward Ryan Malone could come back from an upper-body injury that has caused him to sit out the last six games. Malone has 10 goals and 17 assists in 41 games this season and is questionable for tonight.

The Lightning and Sabres faced twice back in October and Tampa Bay won both meetings, notching a 3-0 home win on Oct. 22 and posting a 4-3 regulation victory three days later in Buffalo. Tampa has taken four of six overall in the series and two of three in western New York.