NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, February 10th (All times eastern)
Buffalo Sabres (25-22-5) at Florida Panthers (23-24-6), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Buffalo Sabres have turned in a stellar offensive performances in each of their last two outings and will try to claim a third straight win when they visit the Florida Panthers tonight at BankAtlantic Center.
The Sabres lost their first game after the All-Star break last Friday, dropping a 3-2 decision to Pittsburgh, but, Buffalo responded by scoring a total of 13 times in consecutive wins over Toronto and Tampa Bay.
Buffalo notched a 6-2 win over the visiting Maple Leafs on Saturday, and on Tuesday night the Sabres downed the Lightning, 7-4, in Tampa. Drew Stafford notched the fifth hat trick of his career and the Sabres scored six consecutive goals in the rout at St. Pete Times Forum.
Thomas Vanek added two goals and an assist while Jordan Leopold had a goal and two assists for the Sabres, who have won four of their last five. Ryan Miller made 30 saves in the win.
Buffalo is trying to fight its way into the top eight seeds in the East, but is currently 10th in the conference and four points out of a playoff spot.
The Sabres are hoping to have winger Patrick Kaleta back tonight after he missed the last five games with a broken hand. He has been practicing with the team and could make his return to the lineup tonight.
Buffalo defenseman Steve Montador is questionable for tonight after sitting out Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury.
The Sabres are 13-10-4 as the visiting team this season and have won four out of five on the road.
Buffalo has lost both meetings with the Panthers this season and was outscored by a combined 10-5 margin in those tilts. The Sabres have still taken six of nine in the series overall and have also claimed six of the last eight meetings in Sunrise.
The Panthers, who are three points behind Buffalo in the East standings, enter tonight having lost four of five and eight of their last 10 games (2-4-4).
Florida ended a three-game slide with last Friday's win at New Jersey, but the Panthers were then dealt a regulation loss Tuesday against the visiting St. Louis Blues. Matt D'Agostini netted the game-winning goal with four minutes remaining in regulation to lift the Blues to the 2-1 victory at BankAtlantic Center.
Dennis Wideman tallied the lone goal for Florida, while Tomas Vokoun yielded two goals on 28 shots in the losing effort.
"We need to find a way to win these close games," Vokoun said.
Tuesday's loss marked the start of a five-game homestand for the Panthers, who have lost four straight in Sunrise since their last home win on Jan. 15 against New Jersey. Florida is 11-9-5 as the host this season.
The Panthers could be without forward Cory Stillman for a second straight game tonight due to an upper-body injury suffered in practice on Monday. The club is already without forwards Evgeni Dadonov (broken finger) and Shawn Matthias (broken right ankle).
In other news, Florida was involved in a trade Wednesday with the Blackhawks, as the Panthers sent forward Michael Frolik to Chicago as part of a five- player deal. The Blackhawks also acquired goaltender Alexander Salak, and sent forwards Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and David Pacan to the Panthers. All the players involved are young, but Frolik and Skille are the centerpieces.
The 22-year-old Frolik is in his third NHL season, and has posted eight goals and 21 assists through 52 games. He netted 21 goals in each of his first two seasons after the Panthers selected him 10th overall in the 2006 draft.
Skille, 23, was the seventh overall pick of the 2005 draft. He has recorded seven goals and 10 assists in 49 games this season, his first full campaign. He played in just 30 games in his first three seasons.
02/10 11:32:45 ET