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PANTHERS (15-17-0) at SABRES (14-15-4)
TV -- FS-Florida (HD); MSG-B (HD)
Last 10 -- Florida 5-5-0; Buffalo 5-4-1
Season series -- It's the second meeting of the season between the teams -- and the second in the last six days. The Panthers raced to a 4-0 lead at home last Friday and coasted to a 6-2 victory.
Big story -- It's getting late early for both of these teams as they try to climb back into the top eight in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers have won five of seven but come to HSBC Arena after a 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The Sabres had the night off after a 5-2 home win against Anaheim on Tuesday -- and for the second game in a row, they are home against a team that played somewhere else the night before.
Panthers -- The Panthers dominated the last 40 minutes against Pittsburgh, outshooting the Penguins 29-17 and generating lots of chances. But against a team like the Penguins, falling into a 3-1 hole is never a good idea -- and they paid the price in a 5-2 loss.
"To spot a team three goals -- any team -- before you kind of get your game going, it's tough, let alone against these guys," said goaltender Scott Clemmensen, who replaced Tomas Vokoun in goal after the Penguins scored three times in less than 11 minutes. "It just became too much for us to climb out of."
Sabres -- No one enjoyed the win against Anaheim more than captain Craig Rivet, who had a goal and an assist in his first game after being a healthy scratch in the previous 11 -- an almost-unheard of benching for anyone wearing a "C."
"There's been a lot of mixed emotions that I've had over the last month or so," Rivet said. "But those are things I'm going to work through. That's the type of person that I am. I was battling some tough situations. I'm happy that I was able to come out and help our team a little bit. If I can continue that, it's all I can ask for."
Injury report -- The Panthers are without center Cory Stillman (back) and forwards Radek Dvorak (shoulder) and Rostislav Olesz (broken finger). … Sabres center Tim Connolly is out with a broken nose that needs surgery.
Stat pack -- Vokoun made 41 saves against Buffalo in the win last Friday, but is just 2-6-1 lifetime against the Sabres. … Buffalo's Ryan Miller, who was torched for four goals in the loss at Florida, is seeking his 200th career victory. He's second all-time in team history behind Dominik Hasek, who had 234 victories as a Sabre.
Puck drop -- The Sabres are hitting the road after Christmas as the World Junior Championships come to the HSBC Arena. Aside from a game against Boston on New Year's Night, the Sabres are away until Jan. 11. Meanwhile, the Panthers get to spend the holiday week at home.