Buffalo finally has a chance to go on a winning streak as they continue their Florida tour, taking on the Panthers Thursday night. Both teams are desperately trying to turn their seasons around and get out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Sabres are coming off Ron Rolston’s first win after taking the head coaching position and are hoping this is a sign of things to come.
Rolston’s first two games were not impressive, including a 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders and 3-1 loss to the Leafs. He was the first one to give credit to the team as a whole for the win in Tampa Bay, stating the players were ‘dialed in’ and that there have been signs of moving in the right direction.
The penalty kill, lead by Ryan Miller, was fantastic Tuesday night and killed off six penalties. Tyler Myers took two penalties in the second period, where the Sabres have seen a lot of struggles this season, but was able to make up for them by snagging the game winner in the third.
Miller has been the starter for 18 of 20 games played so far this season and carries a .916 save percentage. He’s faced more shots than any other goaltender in the NHL, but is not showing any sign of wear or fatigue. Although he’s tied with Philadelphia goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov for most goals against, the Sabres rely on performances like he displayed on Tuesday night as they make their stand for the playoffs.
Thomas Vanek ended his three game pointless streak on Tuesday with two assists and will hopefully get back into dominant first-liner form. He has one goal in his last eight outings, but is still only two shy of league-leader Steven Stamkos, who has found the back of the net 14 times.
The last time these two teams met earlier in the month was bittersweet for the Sabres faithful, seeing their former defenseman, Brian Campbell, net the game winner. The Panthers defeated the Penguins Tuesday night in a high-scoring affair, winning 6-4 after letting a 3 goal lead slip away. Two third period goals gave them the win.
Campbell stated how desperate the team was Tuesday night, and how they needed the win. Tomas Kopecky was a star in that game, completing his first career hat trick, getting an assist, and getting in a scuffle after his second goal that involved Pittsburgh goalie Tomas Vokoun. The Sabres will have to make sure Miller has his space in front of the net Thursday night in order to shut down the net presence of Kopecky.