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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres

Getting off to a good start against Philadelphia was one of the things that Lindy Ruff had been preaching for days, and they did just that with an early three-goal outburst. But Thomas Vanek thinks they may have gotten a little complacent with the three-goal lead, and should’ve kept their foot on the gas.

“Sometimes we get the lead, and we’ve just got to go for the next one,” says Vanek. “It doesn’t mean we have to jump up in every play; we have to be smart about it. We’ve got to keep playing our game, and play with a little bit of a swagger instead of sitting back and trying to win it 3-0 right away.

“There’s nothing wrong with 3-0. But at the same time, against good teams like Philly, they have a lot of firepower and you know they’re going to get chances. We did have some good chances to put them away and we didn’t. We’ve got to get a bit of that swagger mentality and keep going.”

Ryan Miller will get his second consecutive start tonight …. Jordan Leopold was paired with Brayden McNabb this morning, and is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing three games with an upper body injury … Joe Finley was not on the ice today, and has been returned to Rochester … Paul Gaustad also skated, but his playing status for tonight is questionable. Lindy Ruff said they would be recalling a forward from Rochester this afternoon … Patrick Kaleta took part in today’s morning skate wearing the red non-contact jersey.

The version of the Florida Panthers that come into First Niagara Center tonight is markedly different from the team we’ve seen in recent years. They shutout the defending Cup champion Bruins 2-0 last night in Boston, and are now just one point out of the overall lead in the Eastern Conference. When was the last time Florida occupied top spot in the East? Wayyyy back on February 12, 1997 when they were 28-15-3 (69 pts) and had an assistant coach named Lindy Ruff. That was also one season removed from the franchise’s only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Here are some other facts about tonight’s opponent:
  • The Panthers are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, and 16-8-4 on the season. This is their best start since going 16-8-2-2 through 28 games in 1999-2000
  • The Panthers hold a seven-point lead over Washington for first place in the Southeast, the largest divisional lead in the NHL
  • Florida’s 10 road wins are tied with Philadelphia for most in the NHL
  • Their plus-12 road goal differential is second only to Boston’s plus-15
  • Jason Garrison leads all NHL defensemen in goals with eight. He came into this season with seven in 113 career games.

Today’s game begins Buffalo’s eighth of a league-high 21 sets of back-to-back games this season. The Sabres are 4-3-0 in the first game and 5-2-0 in the second. The Sabres have swept two sets and split five. They wrap this set up tomorrow night against the New York Rangers. This is also the first of two sets of back-to-back home games. The next set takes place on Feb. 10-11 against Dallas and Tampa.
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