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game preview

Sabres at Panthers preview

Florida eyes fifth consecutive victory; Okposo returns for Buffalo @NHLdotcom

SABRES (20-33-11) at PANTHERS (30-25-6)

7:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, FS-F, MSG-B, NHL.TV


The Game

The Florida Panthers look for their fifth straight victory, which would match their longest winning streak this season, when they host the Buffalo Sabres at BB&T Center on Friday.

The Panthers, 7-2-0 in their past nine games and 11-3-0 in their past 14, are three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, with three games in hand.

Goaltender James Reimer is expected to start; he allowed seven goals on 34 shots in his last start, a 7-2 loss at the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 18.

Forward Kyle Okposo, who missed a 2-1 overtime win at the Tampa Bay Lightning attending the birth of his third child on Wednesday, will return to the Sabres lineup. Buffalo, 3-1-0 in its past four games after going 1-3-1 in its previous five games, is in last place in the Eastern Conference, 18 points out of the second wild card.


Players to watch

Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his past nine games.

Panthers center Aleksander Barkov has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in his past nine games.


They said it

"I think we're really ready to go at the start of the game, and I think we're playing as a team. Everybody is playing for each other in there, and when you play as a team in this league, you get things accomplished." -- Sabres coach Phil Housley

"We don't want to be a team that trades chances. We're a good team when we control the puck in the offensive zone and we use our speed to our advantage and we don't turn the puck over. It's beneficial for what we want to do." -- Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo


Sabres projected lineup

Benoit Pouliot -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Sam Reinhart

Nicholas Baptiste -- Zemgus Girgensons -- Kyle Okposo

Scott Wilson -- Johan Larsson -- Jason Pominville

Jordan Nolan -- Jacob Josefson -- Seth Griffith

Marco Scandella -- Rasmus Ristolainen

Victor Antipin -- Casey Nelson

Nathan Beaulieu -- Justin Falk

Robin Lehner

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Josh Gorges

Injured: Evan Rodrigues (upper body), Jack Eichel (high-ankle sprain), Jake McCabe (thumb, shoulder), Zach Bogosian (hip)


Panthers projected lineup

Evgenii Dadonov -- Aleksander Barkov -- Nick Bjugstad

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Vincent Trocheck -- Radim Vrbata

Jamie McGinn -- Jared McCann -- Maxim Mamin

Micheal Haley -- Derek MacKenzie -- Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle -- Aaron Ekblad

Mike Matheson -- Mark Pysyk

MacKenzie Weegar -- Alexander Petrovic

James Reimer

Roberto Luongo

Scratched: Connor Brickley, Ian McCoshen

Injured: Denis Malgin (lower body), Frank Vatrano (lower body)


Status report

Rodrigues is day to day. … The Panthers did not skate on Friday.


Stat pack

Ristolainen has four points (one goal, three assists) in his past four games. … Trocheck has nine points (six goals, three assists) in his past nine games and 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in his past 20. … Dadonov has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in his past nine games.

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