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Backup goaltender Brian Elliott to get first Lightning start tonight in Buffalo

Andrei Vasilevskiy will get this first night off this season in the first of back-to-back games.
Lightning goaltender Brian Elliott blocks a shot by Nashville Predators center Thomas Novak (82) during a preseason game earlier this month in Nashville, Tenn.
Lightning goaltender Brian Elliott blocks a shot by Nashville Predators center Thomas Novak (82) during a preseason game earlier this month in Nashville, Tenn. [ MARK ZALESKI | AP ]
Published Oct. 25

Backup goaltender Brian Elliott will make his Lightning regular-season debut tonight against the Sabres, coach Jon Cooper told reporters following the morning skate in Buffalo.

It was believed that Elliott would make his first start in one of the Lightning’s next two games to give starter Andrei Vasilevskiy a night off, as the team plays on back-to-back nights. Tampa Bay plays Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

Elliott, 36, owns spectacular career numbers against Buffalo. In 23 games against the Sabres, he is 17-3-2 with four shutouts, a 1.88 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. He was 4-1-0 against Buffalo last season, while playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.

But Cooper said Elliott’s success against Buffalo had nothing to do with selecting him to start tonight’s game.

“The thing with us is not playing goalies against specific teams,” Cooper said. “It’s not really a factor. It’s all about the schedule, the rest and the numbers. We can’t factor that much into it.”

With Vasilevskiy’s workload under close watch given the minutes he played over two Stanley Cup championship runs during the past 13 months, he’s started all five games so far this season.

But his numbers haven’t been to his normal standards, as he went 2-2-1 with a 3.21 GAA and .893 save percentage. Though if you take away a six-goal game against Detroit two weeks ago, he’s allowed just 2.5 goals per game over the other four contests.

Lightning backup goaltenders struggled last year filling in for Vasilevskiy, going 5-7-2 with an .875 save percentage.

After finishing last in points in 2020-21, the Sabres are off to a strong start, going 3-1-1 and tied for second place in the Atlantic Division with seven points.

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