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Sabres hope to rebound against Panthers

by Mike Battaglino

PANTHERS (2-5-0) at SABRES (3-4-1)


Season series: This is the first of three meetings. Last season, the teams split four games, with one overtime and one shootout decision.

Big story: Florida might be able to show what it is capable of with a full lineup. Center Stephen Weiss is expected to return from injury Sunday, two games after Kris Versteeg got back in. They paired with Tomas Fleischmann last season to form one of the better top lines in the NHL and would be playing their first game together this season.

The reigning Southeast Division champions are last in the Eastern Conference.

"It's a big trip for us," Weiss told the Sun Sentinel on Saturday. "We've got to get some points and get back into this thing."

Buffalo will look for a better performance than it gave Saturday afternoon in a 6-1 loss at the Montreal Canadiens.

"We just got way too high after a good win in Boston [on Thursday] and it's something that we're going to have to learn from," defenseman Tyler Myers told the Buffalo News. "We can take from it tonight, don't get too low, come back tomorrow and win a hockey game."

Team scope:

Panthers: Versteeg's second game produced his first points (goal and assist) and a 6-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, ending a five-game losing streak.

He and Weiss would solidify the first line and top power-play unit, and allow the second line of Alex Kovalev, Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller to slide in as planned behind it. Marcel Goc also is back after injuring his ankle playing in Germany during the work stoppage.

"That gives you options," coach Kevin Dineen told the Miami Herald on Friday. "It's not just the players you're missing, but the players we have are playing out of position to try and fit the square peg into the round hole. This gives us more continuity."

The Panthers open a four-game road trip having had three days off between games. The team reportedly will stay in Buffalo on Sunday night to watch the Super Bowl before flying out Monday prior to Tuesday's game at Winnipeg.

"On the road sometimes you have to play grind-it-out kind of hockey a little bit," defenseman Brian Campbell told the Sun Sentinel. "I think that brings the team closer together if you're successful on the road."

Sabres: Buffalo responded to an emotional 7-4 win at the Boston Bruins on Thursday by taking one shot in the first period against the Canadiens on Saturday.

The Sabres were outshout 15-1 in the first, and trailed 5-0 before Thomas Vanek scored a shorthanded goal in the third period.

"Bottom line is, as disappointing and as unacceptable as tonight was, we have to take that and get ready to come out flying tomorrow," Drew Stafford said.

Jhonas Enroth, who probably was going to make this start, relieved Ryan Miller in the third period.

Who's hot: Fleischmann had three assists Thursday and leads the team with seven points, though he is a minus-6. … Panthers rookie forward Drew Shore has 14 shots but is looking for his first NHL goal. … Vanek kept his season-long points streak alive. He had a hat trick with two assists Thursday at Boston, and his 16 points led the League heading into Saturday night.

Injury report: Panthers forward Scottie Upshall could be out up to a month after injuring his ankle in a fight Thursday. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski (knee) could miss another game. Kovalev (flu) missed practice Friday. … Sabres defenseman Andrej Skejera was bruised by a shot Saturday and played only the first period. Forward Cody McCormick (finger) played his first game. Defenseman Robyn Regehr (foot) was placed on injured reserve.

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