The Buffalo Sabres are hoping some home cooking will be enough to wash a sour taste out of their mouth when they take on the Florida Panthers at First Niagara Center on Sunday afternoon. That sour taste comes from a brutal 6-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
After an impressive victory over Boston on Thursday Buffalo will try to find their game once again in their first game at home since Tuesday in their loss to Toronto.
Florida is riding high after a big win against the Winnipeg Jets. The Panthers won handily by a score of 6-3. The win snapped a five game losing streak and you can bet that the Cats are ready to start a winning streak in its stead.
Tomas Fleischmann is a key player for the Panthers. He was a risky signing when they picked him up from Washington in the summer of 2011, but he paid major dividends last season. He is the focal point of the offense, but is quickly being joined by rookie Jonathan Huberdeau.
Huberdeau scored on Saturday and now has four points on the season. He looked dangerous and creative on Saturday, like a player ready to break out. Former Sabre Brian Campbell has three goals and five points to lead the Panthers from the backend.
For Buffalo it is a similar story in Thomas Vanek. Buffalo’s offense turns on Vanek, but for now Vanek seems up to the task of carrying his teammates. Buffalo’s defense will need to boost their play as well. Tyler Myers has struggled of late and with Andrej Sekera now sidelined with injury they will need someone to step up and play some big minutes. T.J. Brennan is expected to take Sekera’s place in the lineup.
Ryan Miller is expected back in net for the Sabres after being pulled in Saturday’s loss. Miller was yanked after two periods and four goals against, but did not play that poorly. Defensive miscues from Tyler Myers and Jordan Leopold led to several unstoppable goals. A lack of defensive responsibility from the forwards also plagued the Sabres in the loss.
Florida will probably go right back to Jose Theodore in net. Theodore played well on Saturday for the season he has a .901 save percentage and 3.39 goals against average. The “defense first” mentality instilled by head coach Kevin Dineen has helped Theodore recover some of his value as a starter in the NHL in the last year.
Buffalo and Florida meet three times this season the first game will be Sunday, February 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 PM EST. They meet again on the last day of the month and once more in March. Last season the two clubs split their four meetings.
Florida is still missing Stephen Weiss, Ed Jovanovski and Scottie Upshall. Buffalo will likely be without Robyn Regehr and Andrej Sekera.