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Preview: Panthers at Sabres

Florida 'not giving up' despite trailing Bruins by seven points for second wild card into playoffs from Eastern Conference

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

PANTHERS (33-30-11) at SABRES (31-32-12)

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

 

Panthers team scope

The Florida Panthers have won two straight and are seven points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. "We're not giving up on anything," coach Tom Rowe said. "Every guy in that locker room feels it's an achievable goal. It's hard. It's a big hole we've got to dig ourselves out of. But it's not impossible. We've got the team to do it." Forward Jonathan Marchessault has scored five of the Panthers' 10 goals in their past two wins and leads them with 28. "I think our past two games have been real good because our neutral zone and our [defensive] zone has been as tight as it can be all year," Marchessault said. "Just to be able to produce and help the team win, it's just amazing that I'm in that situation right now." Forward Jaromir Jagr will play after he left the 7-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday in the second period because of a lower-body injury. "He's fine," Rowe said. "He had a little bump there last game but he's fine to go." Left wing Shawn Thornton will play his 700th NHL game and defenseman Mark Pysyk his 200th NHL game. Goalie James Reimer will make his third consecutive start.

 

Sabres team scope

The Buffalo Sabres are 10 points behind the Bruins for the second wild card and have won three of their past four games (3-1-0). "We will still establish how we want to play and how we're going to work," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think the last game (5-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday) was a real good example of that. Tonight we want to make the push to establish that's the kind of team we're going to be and that's how we're going to play. That goes for our team and that goes for our individuals individually." Forwards Kyle Okposo and William Carrier, and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, each returned to the lineup against the Maple Leafs. "I really liked the balance of our team," Bylsma said. "Not just on the defensive side but throughout our lineup. Each guy, each line, each [defense] pairing contributing in a good way. I really liked that about our game against Toronto." Goalie Robin Lehner will make his fourth consecutive start. Forward Brian Gionta will play his 1,000th NHL game. "It's the team you grew up watching," said Gionta, 38, who was born about 70 miles east of Buffalo in Rochester, New York. "It's the team you fell in love with. You dreamed of being in the NHL. To have lasted this long I never would have imagined. And to be able to come here and play was pretty special."

 

Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Aleksander Barkov -- Jaromir Jagr 

Jussi Jokinen -- Vincent Trocheck -- Reilly Smith

Thomas Vanek -- Nick Bjugstad -- Jonathan Marchessault

Shawn Thornton -- Derek MacKenzie -- Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle -- Jason Demers

Michael Matheson -- Alex Petrovic

Mark Pysyk -- Jakub Kindl

James Reimer

Reto Berra

Scratched: Michael Sgarbossa

Injured: Aaron Ekblad (upper body), Denis Malgin (upper body), Roberto Luongo (lower body)

 

Sabres projected lineup

Tyler Ennis -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Kyle Okposo

Marcus Foligno -- Jack Eichel -- Sam Reinhart

Evander Kane -- Evan Rodrigues -- Brian Gionta

Matt Moulson -- Zemgus Girgensons -- William Carrier

Jake McCabe -- Dmitry Kulikov

Brady Austin -- Zach Bogosian

Josh Gorges -- Justin Falk

Robin Lehner

Anders Nilsson

Scratched: Nicolas Deslauriers

Injured: Taylor Fedun (upper body), Cody Franson (undisclosed), Johan Larsson (wrist)

Suspended: Rasmus Ristolainen

 

Status report

Luongo practiced Monday. He's missed the past 11 games, last playing against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 2. … The Sabres had an optional morning skate.

 

Who's hot

Barkov has five points (two goals, three assists) during a three-game point streak… Reinhart has a goal and an assist during a two-game point streak.

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