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Sabres vs Panthers Game Preview: Division Opponent

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Sabres and Panthers meeting for the first time this season in a Atlantic Division matchup

NHL: Florida Panthers at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Game #16

Buffalo Sabres (5-8-2) vs. Florida Panthers (4-8-2)

Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. EST | Key Bank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Panthers blog: Litter Box Cats

What to Watch

1. Nathan Beaulieu makes his return.

After missing seven games Beaulieu will return to the lineup for the Sabres tonight. He’ll be playing with Victor Antipin who struggled in his last game being paired with Zach Redmond. We’ll see how much Phil Housley uses Beaulieu in his return and if Antipin can bounce back.

2. Continue to build on the past few games.

The Sabres are winners of two of their last three games. They need to start stringing together good stretches of hockey to start to climb up the standings. This winning every other night plan they’ve been on for the past two years isn’t working.

The Panthers are struggling right now, are a division opponent and are below them in the standings. Two points are important in this game on home ice. A date in Montreal looms tomorrow night. Even if the Habs don’t have Carey Price the Bell Centre is a tough place to win.

3. Shoot Jack.

After Tuesday’s game, Jack Eichel talked about needing to shoot the puck more after failing on few odd-man rushes trying to pass. Eichel has a great shot that he hasn’t used often so far this season. If he begins to fire the puck again, it could help the club tremendously on the struggling power play.

Know Your Opponent

1. Clawless Cats

The Panthers have really struggled over the past ten games. They’re 2-6-2 over that stretch and in particular have been bad on the road going 1-5-0 this season. They’re having trouble keeping the puck out of the net allowing the fourth most goals against in the league with 59.

2. Swiss Cheese

The goaltending situation in Florida has been a mess. Roberto Luongo hasn’t been the same type of player he was the last few seasons with his 3.53 goals against average and .912 save percentage. James Reimer has struggled in his nine appearances with a 4.00 GAA and .890 save percentage. The Panthers took a flier on Antti Niemi, but in two games has a 5.08 GAA and .872 save percentage.

3. Big Four

The Panthers offense runs through four players in Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov. All four have at least 14 points on the season with Huberdeau and Trocheck leading the team with 16. If the Sabres can hold them in check they have a good shot at getting the win tonight.

Projected Lines

9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville

67 Benoit Pouliot - 90 Ryan O’Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo

25 Seth Griffith - 23 Sam Reinhart - 13 Nick Baptiste

28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 17 Jordan Nolan

6 Marco Scandella - 41 Justin Falk

82 Nathan Beaulieu - 93 Victor Antipin

19 Jake McCabe - 27 Taylor Fedun

Starting Goaltender: 40 Robin Lehner