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Panthers-Sabres Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Florida Panthers (22-26-8) at Buffalo Sabres (35-15-4).

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

The Florida Panthers look to sweep the season series with the Buffalo Sabres for their first time in franchise history in the teams' last game before the Olympic break.

Though they are 22 points worse than the Sabres, who are three points behind first-place Ottawa in the Northeast Division, the Panthers have won all three meetings this season. Florida hasn't needed overtime in any of the victories, holding Buffalo to a total of four goals.

Only twice in 11 years had the Panthers even won the season series.

Florida has scored 14 goals in its last three games, the most it's had in a three-game stretch all season.

Jon Sim had his first career hat trick in the Panthers' 5-0 win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.

"We worked hard tonight," said Sim, who also had an assist. "Finally, pucks are starting to find their way in. It's a good feeling."

Sim has scored goals in each of his last three games after getting none in his first four games with Florida since being acquired from Philadelphia.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo made 44 saves Tuesday for his fourth shutout of the season, and his second in his last five starts.

"I just tried to weather the storm," Luongo said. "That's going to happen often when you play on the road. Teams come out strong."

Luongo has been in net for all three games against Buffalo this season, posting a 1.34 goals-against average. He is 7-5-2 all-time against the Sabres with a 1.78 GAA, his second-best against any opponent.

Joe Nieuwendyk's goal against the Capitals extended his season-high point streak to seven games. The 19-year veteran has not had a point in eight straight games since a nine-game streak from Feb. 23-March 12, 1999.

Chris Gratton has three goals and five assists in the last three games for the Panthers, who have split their last eight games.

Florida, among the NHL's worst road teams with just seven wins, is facing a Buffalo team that is 17-7-3 at home.

The Sabres, though, lost at home in their last outing, 3-2 in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

Jason Pominville tied the game with 27 seconds remaining in regulation, but Buffalo allowed the winning goal 39 seconds into overtime.

"We were lucky to get a point tonight," Pominville said. "It was the kind of night that we didn't really deserve one and we were fortunate to get one."

The Sabres had a six-game win streak snapped and lost forward Jochen Hecht, who will miss at least two weeks with a sprained knee. The injury will also force Hecht - a member of the German national team - to miss the Turin Olympics.

Hecht, who scored a power-play goal against Montreal, has 15 goals and 15 assists in 54 games this season.

The Sabres have allowed a short-handed goal in their last two games and have given up 12 this season, tied with Washington for the most in the NHL.

Goalie Ryan Miller has won four straight road games, but has lost his only two career starts against the Panthers.

STANDINGS: Panthers - 52 points, 4th place, 28 PB, Southeast Division. Sabres - 74 points, 2nd place, 3 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Olli Jokinen, 25 goals, 34 assists and 59 points; Gratton, 77 PIM. Sabres - Ales Kotalik, 21 goals; Teppo Numminen, 30 assists; Kotalik and Chris Drury, 42 points; Andrew Peters, 63 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Panthers - Power play: 15.4 percent (44 for 286), 25th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (296 for 360), 15th. Sabres - Power play: 21.2 percent (68 for 320), 2nd. Penalty killing: 86.2 percent (243 for 282), 3rd.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (22-22-8, 4 SO, 2.96 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-4-0, 3.09). Sabres - Miller (19-7-1, 2.21); Martin Biron (15-6-3, 2.98).

SEASON SERIES: Panthers, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 1; Panthers, 2-1. At Buffalo, N.Y., Gary Roberts scored the go-head goal midway through the third period and Luongo stopped 28 shots.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 7-19-4 on the road; Sabres - 17-7-3 at home.

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