New-look Sabres take on Lightning in Tampa

The Buffalo Sabres are in Tampa Bay tonight as they face the Lightning for the team’s final meeting on the season.

The contest comes just a little more than 24 hours after the Sabres shed a significant amount of weight at the trade deadline. Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell, Brian Flynn, and Michal Neuvirth were all shipped out to new teams, opening up a number on the spots on the roster that need to be filled. Considering that the Sabres largely acquired draft picks from the deals, it appears that a handful of Rochester Americans will be called up to fill the voids.

One spot that the Amerks won’t be tasked to, though, is the goaltender position. In the deal that sent Neuvirth to the New York Islanders, the Sabres acquired backup netminder Chad Johnson, who seems poised to guard the pipes for the Sabres’ final stretch this season. Johnson has struggled so far this season, posting an 8-8-1 record with a 3.08 goals against average, and an .889 save percentage, one of the worst among NHL goaltenders who have played more than ten games.

But Johnson has shown flashes of promise in the past. Last season, he was brilliant for the Boston Bruins in a limited role, going 17-4-3 with a .925 save percentage. Two seasons prior, he played exceptionally well in a pair of contests for the Phoenix Coyotes.

With Buffalo calling in replacements, and their offense depleted, Johnson will have to channel that previous success for the Sabres to keep pace with their opponents tonight. The Tampa Bay Lightning still own the league’s highest goal total with 208, ten more than the next highest (New York Islanders with 198).

The Lightning also bring a new wrinkle to their defense core in the form of Brayden Coburn, who they acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers at the trade deadline.

Tonight’s contest is scheduled for 7:30 PM EST from the Amalie Arena from Tampa, Florida. The game will be nationally broadcast on the NBC Sports Network.

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