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Panthers try to complete homestand sweep vs. Sabres

by Mike G. Morreale
SABRES (33-29-9) at PANTHERS (34-23-13)


Last 10:
Buffalo 6-2-2; Florida 6-3-1

Season series:
This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. The Sabres have won twice, including the most recent clash in Buffalo on Dec. 9 when Sabres captain Jason Pominville scored at 2:19 of overtime, and Ryan Miller finished with 22 saves in a 2-1 win.

Big story:
The Sabres entered Friday night's action ninth in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 75 points in 71 games -- three behind eighth-seeded Washington and one ahead of 10th-seeded Winnipeg, both of whom played Friday night. The club will be without young defenseman Tyler Myers for two more games as he serves the second of a three-game suspension he received for boarding Montreal's Scott Gomez on March 12. He missed Wednesday's 5-4 shootout loss to Colorado and will also sit out Monday's game in Tampa Bay. For the season, Myers has 8 goals, 21 points, a plus-2 rating and 73 hits in 50 games.

Team Scope:

Ryan Miller stopped 38 of 42 shots through regulation and overtime, but it wasn't enough as the Sabres dropped a heartbreaking 5-4 shootout decision to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. The loss spoiled a big night for Marcus Foligno, who scored a pair of goals while his father, former Sabres captain Mike Foligno, watched from the stands. With the loss, Buffalo failed to extend its five-game winning streak at home -- falling one short of the franchise record. The Sabres haven't won six straight on home ice since 2006-07.

Panthers: The Panthers have started out a four-game homestand with three straight wins, beating Carolina, Toronto and Boston by a combined 13-4. Florida scored the opening goal for the fourth straight game on Thursday when Mikael Samuelsson connected 17:57 into the first. The Panthers are 22-2-8 when scoring first. With its 6-2 victory over Boston, Florida moved within two points of the Bruins for the second seed in the East. The Panthers also extended their lead over Washington in the Southeast Division to three points; each team has 12 games remaining.

Who's hot:
Sabres center Tyler Ennis has 6 goals and 14 points in his last 15 games. … Florida goalie Jose Theodore is 3-0-1 in his past four games and has allowed two goals or less in 11 of 14 appearances since returning from a four-game absence (knee) on Feb. 12. The 35-year-old goalie has gone 6-2-1 in his past nine games.

Injury report: For the Sabres, Nathan Gerbe (muscle strain) is day-to-day and Jochen Hecht (concussion) is out indefinitely. Defenseman Andrej Sekera (pneumonia) has missed the last five games and is questionable. … Jack Skille (shoulder), Matt Bradley (upper body) and Scottie Upshall (sports hernia surgery) are on injured reserve for the Panthers. The team does expect to have Kris Versteeg (hip) and Dmitry Kulikov (knee) back in the lineup against the Sabres.

Stat pack: Florida left wing Tomas Fleischmann had 2 assists in the victory over Boston on Thursday and now leads the team with 51 points (22 goals), which equals the career-high total he set with the Washington Capitals two seasons ago.

Puck drop:
How much do the Panthers enjoy playing at BankAtlantic Center in front of their fans? The club is 27-2-4 when tallying at least three goals this season, including three shootout wins. The team is 13-0-2 on home ice when scoring three or more goals, which includes a stretch of 12 straight wins.

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