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Gionta to play 1,000th game as Sabres host Panthers

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

If you're coming to the game tonight, make sure to be in your seats early. It will be the 1,000th NHL game for Brian Gionta as the Sabres host the Florida Panthers, an achievement that only nine other players have accomplished in a Sabres uniform.

A pregame ceremony will be held to honor the milestone for the captain of the Sabres.

"I've been fortunate to have been healthy and have a long career," Gionta said. "I think when I get out there it will be a little different but right now, it hasn't really sunk in."

It will be a moment of pride not only for Gionta and his family, but for his teammates as well. 

"He's a tremendous leader," Sabres forward Marcus Foligno, often a linemate of Gionta's over the past two seasons, said. "He's, I think, the definition of a professional. That sums it up. The way he prepares, keeps his body in shape and is great in the community, great as a leader. Everyone in this room looks up to him. Tremendous amount of respect for the guy and it's an honor to be a part of his 1000th game."

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: #G1000NTA #G1000NTA #G1000NTA #G1000NTA Let's get it trending!12,000 fans will receive a Gionta towel tonight ������

The Sabres are coming off of a strong 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs, one in which they scored twice on the power play, went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill and outshot Toronto 38-34. It was the type of complete effort the Sabres have been looking to put forth more often this season, and one they'll look to replicate in their final seven games.

"I liked the way we played," Foligno said. "We were physical, we didn't have sloppy breakouts the whole time and we were smart in the offensive zone. We shot a lot of pucks last game. That's what's got to happen in the next seven games. We have nothing to lose so we've just got to make sure we're playing as a team."

Video: Preview: FLA at BUF (3/27/17)

"I think we will still want to establish how we're going to play and how we're going to work," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma added. "I think last game was a real good example of that … Tonight we want to make the push to establish that that's what kind of team we're going to be, how we're going to play. That goes for our team; that goes for our individuals."

The Panthers enter the game having won twice in a row, including a 7-0 blowout of the Chicago Blackhawks in their last game. James Reimer, who will get the start in net tonight, made 25 saves for his first shutout as a Panther, while Jonathan Marchessault recorded his first career hat trick. Marchessault has nine goals and 10 points overall in his last 10 games.

Robin Lehner, coming off a 32-save performance against Toronto, will start for Buffalo.

Coverage of tonight's game begins at 6:30 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops between the Sabres and Panthers at 7 p.m.


Projected lineup

63 Tyler Ennis - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
82 Marcus Foligno - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
9 Evander Kane - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 12 Brian Gionta
48 William Carrier - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 26 Matt Moulson

29 Jake McCabe - 77 Dmitry Kulikov
4 Josh Gorges - 41 Justin Falk
67 Brady Austin - 47 Zach Bogosian

40 Robin Lehner 
31 Anders Nilsson 

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