Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres will close out their three-game homestand on Monday by welcoming the Tampa Bay Lightning to KeyBank Center for the first time this season.
However, Monday's contest is not the first meeting of the year between the two teams.
The Lightning handed Buffalo a 5-3 loss on Nov. 5 at Amalie Arena. The defeat was the second in as many days on the back-half of a back-to-back road trip, as well as apart of an overall eight-game losing streak that was eventually snapped last week in Montreal.
Dylan Cozens registered a point in the loss to Tampa Bay, assisting on Jeff Skinner’s third goal of the season. The pairing with J.J. Peterka and Jack Quinn has produced noticeable offense for the Sabres lately, while Cozens has also added time on the Sabres' top power play unit, in addition to his effort centering the youth line.
The team’s quick two-game winning streak was stopped this past Friday thanks to the New Jersey Devils, 3-1. Despite that, Cozens saw plenty of takeaways that can carry over to Monday's game.
“We obviously didn’t win the last one, but I think there’s a lot we took from that game into this one,” said Cozens following Monday's morning skate. "We just need to be harder, more simple, more direct and just get it done. It’s a good team, they’re going to capitalize on our mistakes, so we have to be careful about that.”
Rasmus Asplund is back in the lineup on Monday after missing the last two games due to an upper-body injury. He will take Vinnie Hinostroza’s spot in the lineup, as the veteran forward will be a healthy scratch.
Injuries were part of the story the first time these two teams met. Buffalo was already without Mattias Samuelsson, and were dealt another blow along the blue line when Rasmus Dahlin missed the game after suffering an injury the night before in Carolina.
The team is currently without Jacob Bryson, who is currently on Injured Reserve, but will have both Dahlin and Samuelsson in the lineup against the Lightning.
Owen Power had a pair of assists in the prior meeting, and knows the importance of having both Dahlin and Samuelsson back against Steven Stamkos and a high-powered Lightning squad.
"Having a guy like Sammy '[Samuelsson]' back is huge," said Power on Monday. "He’s such a huge part of our d-corps, playing against their top line and being so good on the [penalty] kill. I think having him back is really going to help us and obviously a huge add to the team."
The 20-year-old is averaging 23:36 of ice-time this season, which is second on the team to Dahlin’s 26:08.
Tyson Jost has made an immediate impact since being claimed off of waivers from the Minnesota Wild. The former 10th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo has appeared in three games for the Sabres, and is in search of his first point with the team.
Last Friday, Sabres head coach Don Granato paired Jost with Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons. The head coach was complimentary of the line’s work.
"The created more chances in one game that the third or fourth line have had in multiple games combined,” said Granato on Monday.
Okposo returned to the lineup against the Devils after missing six games due to injury.
Granato thought his team’s slow start on Friday was one of the reasons why they were not able to win their third-straight game. The Sabres finished the night with 34 shots on goal, with the majority coming from the second period on.
"We were really inept on our retrieves and our transition game early," Granato said. "We were sloppy, and we fed the pressure of New Jersey, which really wasn’t even that significant.
"We finished with great energy the other night, and we need that tonight. I think when we’re fresh, it’s a lot easier for us to get to our game, and I think you see even that around the league.”
Tune in for pregame coverage starting at 6 p.m. EST on Monday with Mike Schopp and the Bulldog, where you’ll hear from Granato, Cozens, and Power.