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Panthers host Sabres in Atlantic Division matchup

by Brian Hunter /

SABRES (1-9-1) at PANTHERS (3-6-1)


Last 10: Buffalo 1-8-1

Season series: This is the first of four meetings between the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers, new rivals in the Atlantic Division. Each team won once in its opponent's building last season, with the Panthers taking two of three overall. Shawn Matthias led Florida with three goals.

Big story: While the Sabres' biggest issue with their goaltending is whether to keep Ryan Miller or move him prior to the trade deadline, the Panthers are once again dealing with health issues surrounding veteran Tim Thomas. He went back on injured reserve with a lower-body issue after coming out of Tuesday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks late in regulation. It's probable Jacob Markstrom starts Friday with Scott Clemmensen recalled to be his backup.

Team Scope:

Sabres: First, the good news to come out of Buffalo's 5-2 loss Wednesday to the Boston Bruins, the Sabres' 10th in 11 games: Nikita Zadorov, an 18-year-old defenseman taken with the 16th pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, scored his first NHL goal in his second game. Zadorov saw 17:44 of ice time, up more than six minutes from his debut Oct. 19 against the Colorado Avalanche.

"I'm really happy right now," Zadorov said about his goal. "It's really hard to play against these guys."

Unfortunately, that got overshadowed by a John Scott match penalty in the third period for an illegal check to the head which left the Bruins' Loui Eriksson woozy and Scott facing a lengthy suspension. He was offered an in-person hearing with the League at a date and time yet to be determined.

Panthers: Thomas has played solidly for Florida this season when healthy, and that was the case against the defending Stanley Cup champs. Chicago scored a pair of goals in the second, but Thomas stopped 25 shots and gave the Panthers an opportunity to pull even in the third as Tomas Fleischmann and Dmitry Kulikov scored.

Thomas was forced from the game with 2:59 left in regulation. Markstrom faced two shots through the end of the third and the five-minute overtime before he yielded two goals on three shootout attempts in a 3-2 loss.

"You have got to prepare. When I'm on the bench, I don't just sit there and watch the stands, I try to be in the game," Markstrom said about being pressed into duty late in the game. "You try to be in the game as much you can and I have no problem with that at all."

Who's hot: Cody Hodgson has goals in consecutive games for the Sabres. … Aleksander Barkov, the No. 2 pick in June's draft, has a goal and an assist in the past two games for the Panthers, giving him three goals and four assists in 10 games.

Injury report: Buffalo has forwards Corey Tropp (jaw), Ville Leino (rib) and Cody McCormick (foot) on injured reserve, while forward Patrick Kaleta is suspended. Scott is also suspended, pending his hearing. … Thomas will miss at least the weekend's game for Florida, though coach Kevin Dineen termed him "a quick healer," so he might not be out much longer. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski (hip) and forwards Steven Pinizzotto (hip) and Sean Bergenheim (hip/abdomen) are on injured reserve. Bergenheim is practicing with the team and close to returning.

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