NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, March 6th
(All times Eastern)
Buffalo Sabres (18-35-8) at Tampa Bay Lightning (34-23-5), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - In what expects to be a bittersweet evening for the
Tampa Bay Lightning, the club will welcome Steven Stamkos back into the lineup
just as it gets ready to begin life without franchise mainstay Martin St.
Stamkos, who has been sidelined since Nov. 11 with a broken right leg, was
cleared for contact on Wednesday and expects to play in Thursday's home game
against the Buffalo Sabres.
The news of Stamkos' return, however, came shortly before the franchise traded
St. Louis to the New York Rangers for forward Ryan Callahan, a first-round
draft pick in 2015 and a conditional second-round choice in 2014.
St. Louis, who led the league with 60 points in the shortened 48-game season
in 2013, was the captain and leading scorer for the Lightning this season with
29 goals and 32 assists for 61 points in 62 games.
The 38-year-old veteran joined the Lightning as a free agent in July 2000
after spending his first two seasons in Calgary. He helped Tampa Bay to its
lone Stanley Cup title in the spring of 2004, when he was also the Hart Trophy
winner as the league MVP.
St. Louis has 369 goals and 604 assists for 973 points in 1,041 career NHL
games. He has one year remaining on his contract and requested a trade after
general manager Steve Yzerman initially left him off the Canadian Olympic
roster. Yzerman, also the GM for Team Canada, eventually added St. Louis as an
injury replacement for Stamkos.
"We'd like to thank Marty for everything he has done on and off the ice during
his outstanding 13-year career in Tampa Bay," said Yzerman. "He has been one
of the greatest players in the organization's history, but in the end we
honored his request today. We wish him and his family the best of luck as he
continues his career in New York."
Callahan, who was New York's captain, is set to become an unrestricted free
agent at the conclusion of the season. If Callahan re-signs with Tampa Bay,
the Rangers will receive Tampa Bay's second-round pick in the 2015 draft and
the Lightning will acquire New York's seventh-round pick in 2015.
The 28-year-old Rochester, N.Y. native has 11 goals and 14 assists for 24
points in 45 games this season.
Callahan and Stamkos hope to make up for the loss of St. Louis in terms of
production and leadership. Before he suffered a fractured right tibia against
Boston on Nov. 11, the 24-year-old Stamkos was tied for the NHL lead in goals
(14) and points (23).
Tampa Bay currently is holding onto the first of two wild card spots in the
Eastern Conference and is just one point in back of Toronto for the third of
the Atlantic Division's three automatic bids to the postseason. The Lightning,
however, have lost two straight, three of four and five of their last seven
The Bolts recently posted a 1-3-0 record on a four-game road trip, but the
club is beginning a stretch of six straight on home ice tonight. Tampa is
17-7-3 as the host this season compared to a 17-16-2 on the road.
Like the Lightning, the Sabres also recently traded a longtime centerpiece of
their franchise when they shipped former No. 1 goaltender Ryan Miller to St.
Louis on Friday. Buffalo received goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the Blues in
the deal, but flipped Halak to Washington on Wednesday before he could even
suit up for the Sabres.
Halak was dealt to the Capitals along with a third-round pick in 2015 in
exchange for goaltender Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla.
In a separate trade on Wednesday, the Sabres dealt forwards Matt Moulson and
Cody McCormick to Minnesota in exchange for forward Torrey Mitchell, a second-
round pick in 2014 and another second-rounder in 2016.
The Sabres are last in the NHL with 44 points and are headed for their third
straight year missing the playoffs. Buffalo had won three in a row before
losing 3-2 to Dallas on Monday at the start of a three-game road trip.
Tampa Bay is 2-0 against Buffalo this season and the Bolts have taken three of
the last four meetings in this series.
The Sabres, who have a dreadful 6-18-3 road record this season, have lost in
their last two trips to Tampa.
03/06 10:58:40 ET