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Sabres hope to continue strong start vs. Panthers

by Adam Kimelman /
PANTHERS (5-4-0) at SABRES (6-3-0)


Season series:
This is the second of four games between the teams this season. On Oct. 20, Ryan Miller stopped all 22 Panthers shots and Thomas Vanek scored a pair of goals to lead the Sabres to a 3-0 win in Florida.

Big Story: The Panthers will look to end their three-game road trip through the Northeast Division on a positive note, while the Sabres look for their second win on home ice.

Team Scope:

The Panthers know they let two points slip away Thursday in Ottawa. Nick Foligno scored with 2.5 seconds left in regulation to steal a win and two points for the Senators. It came not long after Kris Versteeg scored with 47.1 seconds left, a goal that seemed certain to send the game to overtime.

"When you end up on the wrong side of those ones, it has a lot of sting," coach Kevin Dineen told the Miami Herald. "There are some lessons to be learned. It was sloppy play by us. I don't think that's the defining moment for our season. But it's a tough loss.''

The loss spoiled another fine outing by rookie Jacob Markstrom, who had been going for his third straight win and stopped 92 of the last 96 shots he faced prior to Foligno's goal.

"They controlled the walls most of the game and we can't win that way," Versteeg told the Herald. "We have to get back to the way we played in Montreal (a 2-1 win Monday). We left (Markstrom) out to dry all night. That's junk. You can't expect the goalie to win for you every night."

It appears Jochen Hecht has suffered a setback in his attempt to return to the lineup. The veteran forward, who has been out with a concussion since being hit on the second day of training camp, was held off the ice Friday, an off-day that was "not scheduled" according to Hecht.

"He wasn't doing that well today," coach Lindy Ruff told reporters following Friday's practice. "We're just trying to figure some things out. Not to go into detail, but he could be back to full go (Saturday). He's seeing some people today, and there's a good chance he can practice again (Saturday)."

Hecht has played just one game -- Game 7 of last year's playoffs against the Flyers -- since March 29, when he suffered an upper-body injury in a game against the Maple Leafs.

Who's Hot: Versteeg has points in three straight and leads the Panthers with 5 goals and 11 points. … Sabres forward Thomas Vanek has 4 points in his last two games; he's second in the League in scoring with 14 points and is third with 7 goals.

Injury Report:
Newly-acquired Mikael Samuelsson is with the team in Buffalo, but his playing status is in question while he continues to recover from complications from offseason surgery to fix a sports hernia. Also out of the lineup for the Panthers are goalie Scott Clemmensen (knee) and forward Sean Bergenheim (lower body). … Besides Hecht, Sabres forward Tyler Ennis is out with an ankle injury, but forward Patrick Kaleta will play wearing a full cage to protect his infected nose.

Stat Pack:
Vanek had the first 3-assist game of his career Thursday against Columbus.

Puck Drop:
Mike Weber thought he had done enough last season to establish himself as a full-time NHL player. But with the offseason additions of Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr, Weber has been pushed off the ice. After playing 58 games and all seven in the playoffs, he has yet to play a game this season.

"Of course there's frustration building," Weber told the Buffalo News. "I want to play. Sitting out is not easy. It's a tough situation when you have the caliber of defense that we have. There's seven of us, and every one of us is a top-six or top-four guy."

Ruff said he's glad to hear Weber is frustrated.

"Not (taking it) very well, and no player should," Ruff said. "He was a good part of our team last year. It's a tough situation. There's some things that I'm still trying to make up my mind on, the importance of certain individuals and whether we should rotate a couple of individuals. Short term, he's the guy that's taking the bullet."

Weber said he's willing to wait, but knows when he does get his chance, he'll make the most of it.

"I have to trust the coaching staff and know they're trying to do what it takes to win right now and that I'll get my chance," Weber said. "And when I get my chance, I'll do the same thing I did last year."

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