Tuesday Night NHL Hockey: Buffalo Sabres host the Tampa Bay Lightning

The quick starting Buffalo Sabres (5-2-0) get a chance to extract revenge from the Tampa Bay Lightning (3-3-2) tonight at home, in just their second game at home against one of only two teams to defeat the Sabres thus far in the 2011-12 season. Buffalo heads home after a three-game winning streak was squashed by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, who shutout the red-hot Sabres offense, in a 3-0 game to keep Buffalo from a perfect record on their first road trip of the season. One thing the Sabres will certainly be looking to do in tonight’s rematch against the Lightning is to find a way to generate more offense and more shots, as they were held to just 21 shots against Tampa goalie Mathieu Garon in the weekend’s loss. Geared up for getting their first win at home this season however, Tampa Bay should expect a much more focused, much better attacking group from the Buffalo Sabres camp this evening, making for a great hockey event on Tuesday night to watch and to wager on at one of the top online sportsbooks reviewed here.

While Tampa Bay has started off the year rather slow with just 8 points from 8 games, their win against Buffalo certainly came at the right time, as tonight’s game is going to be a much harder task for the Lightning to emerge victorious from. Buffalo has simply dominated the Lightning at home, going 20-6 with one tie in the last 27 meetings held there, and Tampa goalie Mathieu Garon has been almost opposite of his performance last Saturday, failing to win a game in his last 6 starts there (0-6-0) while posting a massive 4.05 goals against average. He’ll be up against arguably one of the Top-5 goalies in the league in Ryan Miller, who has dominated the Lightning over his career with a 17-5-0 lifetime record while winning 7-of-9 games at home. What is evident by statistical analysis between these two goalies is that Miller has definitely benefitted from good goal production, as his 3.11 goals against average in his 9 home games (vs. Garon’s 4.05) has resulted in the Sabres coming away with wins in 7 of those outings where Miller hasn’t been that great. With both sides in this match-up coming in packing plenty of offensive weapons, averaging almost 6 goals per game between the two of them, and a history of high-scoring match-ups in Buffalo, this game could be an exciting scoring affair worth watching and definitely worth a wager at one of the top online sportsbooks like today’s featured sportsbook at TopBet.com.

What we’re looking out for in tonight’s game is a quick start from Buffalo, as they try to get their leading goal scorer Thomas Vanek back into his usual form against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Although Vanek was shutdown along with the rest of the Buffalo scorers on Saturday, his amazing stats against Tampa Bay while playing at home indicate that the weekend’s blanking was just a fluke. Thomas Vanek, in 12 home games against the Lightning, has a whopping 16 goals with 3 hat tricks, something that should definitely come up in the story lines for this game tonight. However, what may be just as important in tonight’s match-up is for the Sabres to find a way to get more production out of center Ville Leino (1 goal this season) and Jason Pominville (2 goals), with left-winger and former 20-goal scorer Tyler Ennis out with a sprained ankle. They’ll certainly need production against a Tampa Bay Lightning team that is 5th in the league in scoring, but at home backed by the 3rd best defense which has allowed only 13 goals in 7 games played, we could see a role reversal from Saturday’s game as the stacked defense of the Sabres led by Andrej Sekera, newly-acquired Christian Erhoff, and former Flames Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold work to shut down the high-flying Lightning front lines. It’ll be up to the big names of Tampa Bay including Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vincent LeCavalier to try and make Ryan Miller’s life more difficult tonight with plenty of shots on goal, in order for Tampa Bay to prevail in a a house they’ve typically struggled in.

Betting Lines for Tampa Bay vs. Buffalo

TopBet.com Sportsbook has the host Buffalo Sabres as -150 favorites to win at home, while the visiting Lightning comes in as +130 underdogs in this tough road match-up. Given the poor performances in the past by Tampa Bay in this building, it’s interesting to see the odds actually this close together, especially with Mathieu Garon’s inconsistent form, and lack of a win during six tries on Buffalo ice. Equally interesting is the 5.5 goal over/under (EVEN money on under, -120 over), which certainly accounts for Garon’s 4.05 GAA in Buffalo, but doesn’t put much stake in the Sabres coming together to shutdown Tampa Bay in a revenge game on home ice. Lastly for the betting lines on this exciting contest, the points spread has the Sabres giving up 1.5 goals at +200 odds, while the Lightning seek to cover 1.5 goals at -240 price, something that seems rather likely in a game with lots of talent, lots of scoring ability on both sides, and a grudge match in the works.

Our Pick to Win:

While the Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of offensive weapons, and come off a solid 3-0 victory over the Sabres over the weekend, it’s Buffalo’s turn to exact revenge at home, get their first home win of the season. The crutch for the Lightning in this game will be Mathieu Garon in goal, who we see continuing to struggle on the road against Buffalo as the Sabres have no doubt adjusted their game plan to put more pressure and more shots on goal. That said, Garon is playing superbly to start the year with a 1.51 goals against average, while saving 94.8% of shots against him. It’s going to take a lot of shots to bust through his good form right now, and Buffalo will have to do more than 21 shots on goal to come out a winner tonight. For Tampa Bay to come out with two straight wins against the Sabres might be even more of a challenge against one of the best defenses in the NHL. If they can score early in the game, and keep production going with their top line skaters against a stacked Buffalo defense, Tampa could edge out an underdog win. However, if Tampa fails to generate upwards of 30 shots on goal, and Ryan Miller can have a similar night as Garon did back at the St. Pete Forum, look for Buffalo to edge out a close win in a low-scoring showdown, that we’re calling 2-1 at First Niagara Center in favor of the Sabres.

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