SABRES (13-14-4) at PANTHERS (13-16-0)
TV: MSG-B (HD)
Buffalo 5-4-1; Florida 4-6-0
First of four meetings this season. Buffalo took three of four on the 2009-10 slate, including both games in Florida. Fourteen different players scored for the Sabres and nine for the Panthers. The only ones to manage multiple goals were Buffalo's Jason Pominville
and Mike Grier and Florida's Michael Frolik and Rostislav Olesz, with 2 apiece. Ryan Miller
of the Sabres and Tomas Vokoun of the Panthers factored in the decisions in all four games.
Each team comes off a game Wednesday night decided by a single goal, but while Buffalo enters feeling good about itself the same can't be said for Florida. Drew Stafford
twice rallied the Sabres from one-goal deficits, then completed the hat trick in a 3-2 win over the Bruins. Meanwhile, the Panthers allowed a 3-1 lead in the third period slip away as they lost 4-3 to the Hurricanes.
With a 6-5-3 record, Buffalo has been formidable on the road this season. Now they are starting to win consistently at HSBC Arena as well. Following an 0-6-1 start, the Sabres have won seven of 10 in front of the home faithful after edging the Bruins. Stafford made sure his team never trailed for long, scoring 72 seconds after David Krejci in the second period and 32 seconds after Michael Ryder in the third. His game-winner came on a power play with 9:05 left.
"I think I'm going to take another two weeks off and come back and get a couple points and hopefully win," said a joking Stafford, who was returning from a four-game injury absence. "You're hungry to get back. Unfortunately I got hurt, but I'm hoping those days are behind me and I can finish out the rest of the year healthy."
Only two teams in the League have fewer points than Florida, which couldn't afford to let two slip away in the fashion it did against division rival Carolina. Evgeny Dadonov
scored his first NHL goal 27 seconds into the game and Frolik made it 2-0 at the 1:42 mark, chasing Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. Bryan McCabe greeted backup Justin Peters with a power-play goal at 5:16 and at 3-0 the rout appeared to be on. Not only didn't the Panthers score again, they gave one back in the second and it all fell apart in the final 20 minutes.
"It's inexcusable to lose a lead like that. There's no sugarcoating it," coach Pete DeBoer said. "We didn't get the right plays at the right times from our goaltender on out. We've got to find a way to fix it because those things don't happen to good teams."
Who's hot: Derek Roy
factored in on all three of Stafford's goals and has 6 assists in the Sabres' last three games. Jason Pominville
has 2 goals and 2 assists during a four-game points streak. … Stephen Weiss
has 2 goals and 3 assists over the last four games for the Panthers and Frolik has 3 goals and 1 assist during that span.
Buffalo defenseman Shaone Morrisonn
is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms. … Florida has forwards Byron Bitz (sports hernia), Mark Cullen (Achilles), Rostislav Olesz (broken finger), Cory Stillman (back spasms) and Radek Dvorak (shoulder) on injured reserve.
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller
has started eight games in a row since returning from groin soreness and has a 5-2-1 mark over that stretch. … Weiss earned his 300th career point by assisting on Frolik's goal against the Hurricanes.
No one on Florida was taking the loss to Carolina tougher than goalie Tomas Vokoun, whose errant clear led to Tuomo Ruutu's game-winning goal.
"This is one of the toughest games I've lost in my career," he said. "There's no words that can describe it. It was my mistake and you can't make that mistake at that point in time. I'm disappointed in myself."