Lightning vs. Sabres NHL Preview and Best Bet 

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Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP

It’s the front end of a back-to-back for the two-time Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday as they visit the Buffalo Sabres. Which way to lean at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Buffalo Sabres 

Monday, October 25, 2021 – 07:00 PM EDT at Amalie Arena 

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres couldn’t be more different as franchises. The Lightning have won back-to-back Stanley Cups and are +900 second-favorites at BMR’s top-rated books to win a third this summer. Buffalo has been dysfunctional for years and hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2010-11 season. I tend to doubt they make it this year, either, although they do appear a bit better. 

Monday is the first of three meetings this season between Tampa Bay and Buffalo. They didn’t play last season because of the unusual divisional setup in the COVID pandemic. The year before, the Lightning won all four in the series. They are 9-2 on NHL picks in their past 11 trips to Buffalo

Lightning Better Away From Home 

Maybe it’s a good thing the Lightning are on the road as they are 2-0 away but 0-3 at home following Saturday’s 4-3 shootout defeat against Colorado in a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview. Cale Makar scored in the sixth round of the shootout for the victory. 

Tampa Bay, which remains without star forward and former Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov indefinitely, got goals from Mathieu Joseph (first of season), Steven Stamkos (fourth) and Brayden Point (second). Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 of 27 shots. The one-time Vezina Trophy betting favorite, Vasilevskiy hasn’t really been himself this year with a 2-2-1 record and 3.13 goals-against average. 

Because this is the front end of a back-to-back, Coach Jon Cooper may decide to give Brian Elliott his first start in net Monday – Elliott is either starting this one or Tuesday in Pittsburgh.  

Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP

Rather amazingly, the Lightning have yet to score in the opening period through five games – the only team without a first-period goal. In fact, Tampa Bay has not held a lead at any point in regulation yet. That seems impossible. There might be a bit of a Stanley Cup hangover. 

"When you lose a guy like (Nikita Kucherov), it shakes things up a bit in terms of trying to find your chemistry with lines and breaking some guys up that worked well and trying to find some balance," Stamkos said. "We talked about, same with the power play, it's going to be an adjustment period for that and probably 5-on-5 as well. We're not sitting here getting 15, 20 shots. We're generating some chances. We'd like to see them go in and play with the lead a little more moving forward." 

Tampa Bay is 8-3 on the NHL odds in its past 11 as a road favorite. 

Sabres In Offensive Funk 

Buffalo won its first three games but has since dropped its past two, scoring just one goal in each – the team clearly misses star Jack Eichel, who continues to be at odds with the team over how to deal with a herniated disk in his net. Eichel wants a trade and could file a grievance through the NHLPA to force a resolution.  

The Sabres were 2-1 OT losers at New Jersey on Saturday in their first road game of the year. Pavel Zacha beat Dustin Tokarski at 3:09 of OT. Buffalo led for most of the game thanks to an early first-period goal from Dylan Cozens, his first of the year. That ended a 24-game goalless streak for Cozens. Tokarski allowed two goals on 39 shots

I’d think it would be 40-year-old Craig Anderson in net for this one, however. He’s 2-1-0 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .933 SV. Anderson allowed three goals on 25 shots in Friday's 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins  

There has been one worrisome trend in the back-to-back losses: Buffalo getting dominated in the faceoff circle. The Sabres won just 34 percent of them vs. New Jersey. Center Cody Eakin has missed the past two with an undisclosed injury, and it’s not clear if he will play here. Eakin has a goal and assist in three games with a plus-1 rating.  

Buffalo is 8-20 on the NHL odds in its past 28 as a home dog. For our NHL pick, I expect Tampa Bay to win but the best value is the Sabres on the puckline. 

NHL Pick: Sabres at +1.5 (-138) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Sabres at +1.5 (-138)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.