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Preview: Sabres at Panthers

Shawn Thornton of Florida to play final NHL game; Sean Malone will make League debut for Buffalo

NHL.com @NHL

SABRES (33-35-12) at PANTHERS (33-36-11)

7 p.m. ET; FS-F, MSG-B, NHL.TV

 

Sabres team scope

Center Sean Malone, who signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday will make his NHL debut. Malone, 21, was selected in the sixth round (No. 159) of the 2013 NHL Draft and played four seasons for Harvard, which lost 2-1 to Minnesota Duluth in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament on Thursday. Malone, a native of West Seneca, New York, had 42 points (18 goals, 24 assists) in 36 games during his senior season. Although the Sabres will not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they will look for positives in the last weekend of the regular season. "It's a tough situation to be in, but the fact of the matter is we still have two games to play," defenseman Josh Gorges told the Buffalo News. "If anything, you look and see character, the character of every individual, us as a team. What are we made of? What's our mindset? Are we a team that just says 'Who cares because it doesn't matter?' or do we at least have enough gumption, enough price to do things the right way?" There has been no update on the condition of forward Kyle Okposo, out with an illness since March 28 who reportedly was hospitalized this week. "It's a difficult situation and a difficult time for Kyle and his family," coach Dan Bylsma told the Buffalo News on Friday. "We want to do everything we can to be with him and help him through the time that he's in right now. It's certainly a cloud." Goaltender Robin Lehner will start for the Sabres, who have lost three of their past four games (1-3-0).

 

Panthers team scope

Florida Panthers forward Shawn Thornton is expected to play his final NHL game. Thornton, 39, will retire after 14 seasons in the League. He has 102 points (42 goals, 60 assists) in 704 career games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins and Panthers. He won the Stanley Cup twice; with the Ducks in 2007 and the Bruins in 2011. "I've tried to embrace every moment along the way," Thornton said after the morning skate Saturday. "A lot of great memories, a lot of great friends." Thornton played his 700th NHL game on March 27, and according to the Panthers, is the only player who began his professional career after expansion to play 700 NHL games and 600 games in the American Hockey League. "He's still a big part of our fourth line," defenseman Alex Petrovic said. "He's going to be greatly missed." The Panthers, 4-13-1 in their past 18 games, look to avoid a seven-game losing streak entering their final home game of the season. Goaltender James Reimer will start.

 

Sabres projected lineup

Evander Kane -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Brian Gionta

Alexander Nylander -- Jack Eichel -- Sam Reinhart

Nicolas Deslauriers -- Evan Rodrigues -- Tyler Ennis

Sean Malone -- Zemgus Girgensons -- Matt Moulson

Josh Gorges -- Rasmus Ristolainen

Justin Falk -- Zach Bogosian

Dmitry Kulikov -- Cody Franson

Robin Lehner

Linus Ullmark

Scratched: C.J. Smith, William Carrier, Jake McCabe

Injured: Marcus Foligno (knee), Anders Nilsson (undisclosed), Kyle Okposo (illness), Taylor Fedun (foot), Johan Larsson (wrist)

 

Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Vincent Trocheck -- Jaromir Jagr

Colton Sceviour -- Nick Bjugstad -- Reilly Smith

Thomas Vanek -- Denis Malgin -- Jonathan Marchessault

Shawn Thornton -- Derek MacKenzie -- Michael Sgarbossa

Keith Yandle -- Jason Demers

Michael Matheson -- Alex Petrovic

Mark Pysyk -- Jakub Kindl

James Reimer

Reto Berra

Scratched: MacKenzie Weegar, Ian McCoshen

Injured: Roberto Luongo (hip), Aaron Ekblad (neck), Aleksander Barkov (upper body), Jussi Jokinen (undisclosed)

 

Status report

Foligno will miss the Sabres final two games of the season after he was injured in the third period of a 2-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.

 

Who's hot

Eichel has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his past six games and 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in his past 24 games. … O'Reilly has six points (three goals, three assists) in his past six games. … Marchessault has eight points (seven goals, one assist) in his past eight games.

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