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Sharpen Up: April 9, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

The 2016-17 season wraps up today with the Sabres in Tampa. They'll take on the Lightning at 5 p.m. today with the Tops Pregame show beginning at 4:30 on MSG.

No playoff implications in this one, unfortunately, as Buffalo and Tampa are both on the outside looking in on the postseason picture. The Lightning were officially eliminated from contention last night.

Here's what you need to know.

It wasn't a pretty scene last night at BB&T Center. The Sabres lost 3-0 to the Florida Panthers. 

Video: BUF Recap: Sabres' offense stymied in 3-0 loss 

From the game recap:

"We didn't come out to play today so I don't think it was competitive," goaltender Robin Lehner said. "I think they came out to play and we didn't have much today unfortunately."

The Sabres escaped the first period with the game still scoreless despite a couple of close calls on their own end, including a loose puck that the Panthers were unable to put into an open net and a breakaway attempt for Jonathan Huberdeau that got past Lehner but died in the crease before it could cross the goal line. 

Video: Lehner: Postgame Interview at FLA

It was Nick Bjugstad who eventually opened the scoring with a quick shot that beat Lehner between the pads 7:46 into the second period. Huberdeau added to the lead before the end of the period when he barreled into the net with the puck on his stick, and banked another goal in off the leg of Rasmus Ristolainen in the third. 

Lehner allowed three goals on 37 shots.

Video: Gionta: Postgame Interview at FLA

"We've got to play a little more urgent," captain Brian Gionta added. "I know it's the last couple of games coming down the stretch but everyone's got something to play for here."

One bright spot? Sean Malone, a sixth-round pick from 2013, made his NHL debut for Buffalo after his collegiate career with Harvard wrapped up on Thursday. As a West Seneca native, putting on the Sabres crest obviously meant a whole lot to him. He centered a line with Zemgus Girgensons and Nicolas Deslauriers.

Video: BYLSMA: Postgame Interview at Florida

"I thought it was pretty solid," coach Dan Bylsma said of Malone's debut. "I thought that line was probably our best line all game long. Sean and Nic and Zemgus were all a part of that. He showed himself just fine. I liked the way he supported the D-zone, I liked the way he made outlet passes there in the first."

Here's his postgame reaction:

Video: Malone: Postgame Interview at FLA

Malone become the seventh player born in the Buffalo area to appear in a regular-season game for the Sabres, joining Cole Schneider, Justin Bailey, Marcus Foligno, Patrick Kaleta, Tim Kennedy and Scott Thomas.

Aside from these seven, 10 other Sabres players in franchise history have been born in New York State:
Peter Ciavaglia (Albany); Jerry D'Amigo (Binghamton); Zach Bogosian and Mike Hurlbut (Massena); Tracey Pratt (New York City); Rory Fitzpatrick, Brian Gionta and Derek Whitmore (Rochester); Tim Connolly (Syracuse); Connor Knapp (York).

Malone finished the game with one shot on goal in 12:12 of action. He went 5-for-8 from the faceoff circle (62.5 percent).


Tonight's matchup (from @SabresPR's Game Notes)

The Sabres are 23-15-7 all-time in the final game of the regular season, including a 6-3-2 record since 2005-06.

The Sabres' 28-16-3 (.628) record in Tampa Bay is the team's best all-time road record against any Eastern Conference opponent. The team's next best road record against an Eastern conference opponent is its 41-26-11 (.596) mark at Washington.

Buffalo's all-time record of 52-33-8 (.602) against Tampa Bay is the team's third-best record against any Eastern Conference opponent, trailing only their 87-48-20 (.626) mark against Washington and their 113-67-26 (.612) record against Toronto.


Beyond Blue and Gold

We're filling pretty much the entire first intermission of tonight's broadcast on MSG with the season finale of Beyond Blue and Gold. Get to know "The Thousand-Game Family Man" Brian Gionta and his family a little bit better in this one.

We show you his and his family's reaction to him hitting the 1,000-game plateau in a way only BBG can. So make sure box of tissues is close by because it might get a little dusty for this one. 

If you missed the sneak peek, here it is again:
Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: Family man. Pro hockey player.The spotlight's on Brian #G1000nta in our final #BeyondBlueAndGold, by @NewEraCap. Sunday, 1st intermission! pic.twitter.com/inDj3Hlroz


Fan Appreciation Goes Digital Night 2

Fans tuned in to MSG tonight will have a chance to win prizes throughout the broadcast when Fan Appreciation Night Goes Digital.

Registered My One Buffalo members will be able to access a form to enter the contest to win a variety of prizes including:

  • An overnight stay package from Buffalo Marriott HarborCenter
  • Two (2) round-trip tickets courtesy of Delta Air Lines
  • Four (4) 200 Club-level tickets for Sabres 2017-18 home opener
  • $200 Key Possibilities gift card, courtesy of KeyBank
  • (716) Food and Sport VIP Happy Hour for you and 11 guests
  • Sabres prize pack (including an autographed jersey, stick and puck)


To participate in this contest, fans can find a FAN Goes Digital tile under the My Tickets area of the app. Winners will be announced by Brian Duff during both intermissions and the postgame show on MSG.

If you registered last night, you're already eligible for tonight's contest.

 

Last chance to bid!

Two auctions close tonight at 9 p.m. at Sabres.com/Auctions.

The team is holding an Alumni Wine Festival Pink Jersey auction with proceeds to benefit Breast Cancer Care in WNY.

In addition to the Wine Festival jerseys, the team is also holding an auction of Jack Eichel game-worn items. Fans are able to bid on equipment worn by Eichel during the season and from the 2017 World Cup of Hockey. Proceeds will benefit the Buffalo Sabres Foundation and Carly's Club at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. 

So don't miss out and place your bids now!


On tap today

The Sabres are not scheduled to hold a morning skate today so we'll get you all of the lineup news from Bylsma later this afternoon. 

And we'll have full postgame coverage for you here as well. So enjoy your Sunday and stick around.

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