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GAME: Buffalo Sabres (4-1-0) at Florida Panthers (3-2-0).

TIME: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EDT.

Roberto Luongo looks to rebound from his worst performance of the season when his Florida Panthers host the Buffalo Sabres.

Luongo allowed a combined three goals in his first four starts, but on Thursday, he gave up that total in just over a period in a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Luongo, the NHL's defensive player of the week, was pulled after Boston took a 3-0 lead at 5:26 of the second period.

The Panthers seemed to come to life after Luongo was pulled, outshooting Boston 13-3 the rest of the second period and cutting the lead to 3-2.

"I told Roberto it wasn't because of his play, I was trying to change the momentum," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "And I think we did that."

But backup Jamie McLennan allowed Boston to score an insurance goal at 11:34 of the third period as Florida failed in its attempt to start 4-1 for the first time since 1995-96, when it made its only trip to the Stanley Cup finals.

Nathan Horton and Juraj Kolnik scored for the Panthers, who have registered more than two goals only once this season - Monday's 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders, which included an empty-netter.

Buffalo won its second straight close game Thursday, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in a shootout. The Sabres rebounded from their first loss of the season with a 3-2 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.

Against the Lightning, Daniel Briere and Thomas Vanek scored in the shootout, and goalie Ryan Miller stopped Tampa's Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards.

"Anytime you get a road win it's exciting ... but if you beat the Stanley Cup champions in their building it's a good boost," Vanek said after the Sabres won the opener of a three-game trip.

Miller had 32 saves to improve to 4-1 on the season.

"I like that kind of challenge (in the shootout)," Miller said. "It's a fun challenge for goalies."

STANDINGS (through Oct. 13): Sabres - 8 points, 1st place (tied), Northeast Division. Panthers - 6 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Maxim Afinogenov, 4 goals; Vanek and Toni Lydman, 4 assists; Briere, 5 points; Teppo Numminen, 8 PIM. Panthers - Kolnik and Horton, 2 goals; Olli Jokinen, 3 assists and 4 points; Branislav Mezei, 21 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 13): Sabres - Power play: 10.2 percent (4 for 39), 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.9 percent (17 for 21), 20th. Panthers - Power play: 7.3 percent (3 for 41), 27th. Penalty killing: 87.8 percent (29 for 33), 10th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Miller (4-1-0, 2.91 GAA); Martin Biron (no appearances). Panthers - Luongo (3-2-0, 2 SO, 1.37); McLennan (0-0-0, 1.80).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 2-1-1.

LAST MEETING: March 20, 2004; Sabres, 2-1. At Sunrise, Fla., Miroslav Satan and Derek Roy both scored, and Biron had 23 saves to lead the Sabres.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 1-1-0 on the road; Panthers - 2-1-0 at home.

Associated Press

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