The Sabres are coming off a forgettable performance against the Flyers on Wednesday, a game in which they were up 3-0, but failed to come away with the two points. Luckily, Drew Stafford tied the game late in the 3rd, sending the game into overtime.
Tonight, the Sabres host the Florida Panthers, who lead the Southeast Division with 36 points. The next closest team to them is Washington with 29 points, but the Capitals are ranked 9th in the Conference.
While the Panthers are the only team in their division currently in a playoff spot, there is only one team in the Sabres’ division who is out – Montreal.
Buffalo and Florida have already played each other twice, splitting the first pair of games. The Sabres shutout the Panthers in October, but nine days later, Florida came to First Niagara Center and left with a 3-2 win.
After tonight’s matchup, the team’s will have just one game remaining against each other, and that is not until the middle of March.
Captain Jason Pominville has four points (2 G, 2 A) against the Panthers this year and Thomas Vanek has three goals. On the other side, Tomas Kopecky leads his team with three assists against Buffalo this year.
If the Panthers are able to pull of a win tonight, they will take over 1st place in the Eastern Conference. It would be the first time since Feb. 12th, 1997 that they would be in first in the Conference.
While Florida are looking to move into 1st, the Sabres are just looking to earn wins on home ice. Buffalo are just 6-8-2 at home and are at the 2nd game of a five game homestand.
Joe Finley was sent down to Rochester because Jordan Leopold will return to the lineup tonight after missing three games with an upper body injury.
The depleted Sabres lineup is scrounging for as many points as possible and they will be without another forward for tonight. Ville Leino, who has four points (1 G, 3 A) in the past three games, will serve a one game suspension for his hit to the head on Philadelphia’s Matt Read.
The Sabres will also be without Paul Gaustad tonight, forcing the Sabres to call up another forward. Paul Szczechura will play in his 3rd game of the season. He has two assists and as many games with Buffalo so far.