PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 5: Chuck Kobasew #12 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his goal in front of Jhonas Enroth #1 of the Buffalo Sabres and Rasmus Ristolainen #55 on October 5, 2013 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHL on NBCSN: Embarrassed Sabres seek redemption vs Lightning


NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Buffalo Sabres host the Tampa Bay Lightning at the First Niagara Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

No one expected big things out of the Buffalo Sabres this season, but they can’t be this bad. The fact that they started the season 0-3-0 isn’t shocking, but scoring just two goals in three games?

While forward Cody Hodgson is questionable for Tuesday’s contest, they still have Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis, and a very promising 19-year-old prospect in Mikhail Grigorenko. On paper their lineup isn’t the stuff that keeps opposing goaltenders up at night, but they can’t be taken lightly either, especially after three rough outings to start the season.

This is a team that will be eager to prove those that have already written them off wrong. A team like the Tampa Bay Lightning needs to be especially careful.

Related: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $4,000 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Tuesday). It’s $25 to join and first prize is $1,000. Starts at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the link.

Tampa Bay entered this season with a questionable defense and a pair of goaltenders that are promising, but still largely inexperienced. Although the Lightning have only given up five goals in their first two games, this might be a good team for Buffalo to face in the midst of an early offensive slump.

If so, this could turn into a high scoring affair as there’s a chance the Sabres will be without goaltender Ryan Miller tonight. Jhonas Enroth isn’t a bad alternative, but the 25-year-old would have his hands full with Martin St Louis and Steven Stamkos.

The Lightning are off to a decent 1-1-0 start, especially when you consider that they started the season on the road and against the two teams that faced off in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Going into the campaign expectations were more mixed than bad for the Lightning despite the fact that they were even worse than the Sabres in the shortened campaign.

There certainly is enough talent in Tampa Bay to make them interesting, provided that the netminding duo of Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop works out. More to the point, this might be a critical season for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. He was offered a vote of confidence last month, but feelings towards him might sour if the Lightning don’t make significant progress in 2013-14.

Making the playoffs will be a very difficult task and while it’s just October, these are the types of games the Lightning need to win to make their path to the postseason more feasible come April.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.