In the midst of a four-game homestand, the Buffalo Sabres will look to find success against a team they’ve struggled against lately.
Buffalo has lost five consecutive games to the Florida Panthers and is only 2-5-3 in its past 10 games against them. The two will square off at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center on Saturday with the Tops Gamenight pregame show beginning at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
The Panthers topped the Sabres 3-2 last weekend in Florida. Sabres coach Ted Nolan can’t exactly put his finger on why the Panthers have had Buffalo’s number.
“Certain times, teams play well and some teams don’t. Every time we’ve played them so far – except for last game, I thought we played well enough to maybe get a point,” he said after the team’s optional morning skate. “We made a couple mistakes. Their goaltender played real well. It’s just one of those things. I’m not too sure about what happened in the past.
“Tonight’s game is a brand new one. We forget what happened last month or last year or whatever. We just concentrate on today.”
The Panthers won 3-2 in a shootout in Detroit on Friday. Tomas Fleischmann and Jonathan Huberdeau scored in regulation for Florida and Roberto Luongo made 29 saves.
Buffalo is 8-3-1 in its past 11 games and 6-1 in its last seven at home. They've won both games of the current homestand so far.
Jhonas Enroth is slated to start in goal for the Sabres. He’s 1-1-1 in his career against Florida with a 0.97 goals-against average and a .974 save percentage.
Cody Hodgson will be back in the lineup after sitting out Thursday’s win over Calgary as a healthy scratch. He’ll take Cody McCormick’s spot. He left that game in the second period with a lower-body injury.
Sophomore center Zemgus Girgensons will play in his 100th career game on Saturday.
“It’s been a long time, but at the same time, it’s been going really quick,” he said. “At age 20, I’ve come already this far, my 100th game, and it’s just been improving all the time.”
Girgensons has already eclipsed his career high in goals. He had eight in his rookie season last year and scored his ninth of the season on Thursday against Calgary. Last season, he finished with 22 points in 70 games. Through 29 games this season, he has 16 points.
He’s found much of his success while playing on Buffalo’s top line, centering Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis.
“You can see on the stat sheet just this year, the last couple months playing with Ennis and Moulson has given me a boost, confidence and great offense,” he said.
Nolan said that Mike Weber had minor scope surgery on his knee Friday and will likely be out until after Christmas. He’d been dealing with the issue for about three weeks and while he may have been able to play the rest of the year with the injury, the team decided it would be best to take care of it now.
Tyson Strachan has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury. It’s unlikely that he’ll play against the Panthers but he took the morning skate and both he and Nolan are shooting for a return on Monday against Ottawa.
No call-up from Rochester is needed because Andrej Meszaros has been cleared to return. He missed six games due to a concussion.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
Tonight’s game will mark the third time In Sabres history the team will play a game on a sequential date. Buffalo beat Ottawa 5-4 on April 5, 2006, and defeated Los Angeles 3-2 on Nov. 12, 2013. The next possible time the Sabres could play on a sequential date would be Jan. 2, 2103.
The IIHF World Junior Championships are slated to begin on Dec. 26 in Montreal and Toronto. Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov is eligible to play in the tournament and has been named to Team Russia’s preliminary roster. However, due to the injury situation in Buffalo and his high-level of play, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be playing in the tournament.
“He’s playing big minutes, he’s getting a lot of experience. He’s getting better all the time so I don’t see it happening, but, hey, you never know,” Nolan said.
In 18 games this season, Zadorov has one assist and is a plus-5 with 29 penalty minutes and 35 hits. He’s averaging 17:56 of ice time.
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 82 Marcus Foligno – 21 Drew Stafford
80 Chris Stewart – 19 Cody Hodgson – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
61 Andre Benoit – 41 Andrej Meszaros
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth
Injured: 6 Mike Weber (knee), 8 Cody McCormick (lower body), 24 Tyson Strachan (lower body)
Injured Reserve: 31 Matt Hackett (knee)