Did Zadorov just call Tampa’s skill guys ‘pretty soft’?

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The last time the Sabres met the Lightning, it was ugly — the Bolts scored a 5-0 blowout victory during which the two teams combined for 110 penalty minutes.

Prior to tonight’s rematch, Buffalo d-man Nikita Zadorov fired something of a shot at the Bolts:

“We just gotta be ready for [their] quick forwards,” Zadorov told Sabres TV. “We gotta hit them. I think they’re pretty soft.”

The video, in full:

Zadorov, who racked up 14 PIM in the aforementioned loss, took exception to a hit Bolts defenseman Victor Hedman put on Buffalo center Zemgus Girgensons. Incensed, the Russian rearguard went after Hedman and had some words following the affair.

“I just stood up for my teammate,” Zadorov said, per the Sabres website. “He got hit late and you can’t do that. If you want to finish the game with no problem, don’t do that.

“I was just doing my job.”

It’ll be interesting to see what carries over to tonight. Girgensons didn’t say Hedman’s hit was dirty, but agreed with Zadorov that it was late. Other incidents happened as well — Cody McCormick cross-checked Jonathan Drouin, Patrick Kaleta got after Brian Boyle — so there’s no shortage of potential fireworks.