Buffalo Rounds Out Quick Road Trip with Big Game in Sunrise
Panthers host Sabres as both teams battle for much-needed playoff points
Buffalo Sabres (29-23-4) vs. Florida Panthers (29-25-6)
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | FLA Live Arena | Sunrise, FL
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Panthers Blog: Litter Box Cats
Know Your Opponent
Record: 29-25-6 | 64 PTS
Last Game: OT Win vs. Anaheim Ducks, 4-3
Last 10: 6-4-0
Division Ranking: 4th in Atlantic Division
PP: 13th (22%)
PK: 27th (74.4%)
What to Watch
1. Playoff Hunt Continues
The Sabres currently sit behind the Panthers (and Red Wings) with a gap of just two points as both teams continue to work towards securing a playoff spot. Since their return from the All-Star break, Buffalo has snagged six out of a possible 12 points, while the Panthers have earned 10 of 16 possible points. Tonight is incredibly important as the season winds down and Buffalo has just 26 games remaining. While last night’s game was fun to watch - and Ilya Lyubushkin pleasantly surprised us all with his overtime, shorthanded winner - we absolutely do not want tonight’s matchup to go into overtime. Both teams have an almost identical record and, quite frankly, we need those two points without surrendering any to Florida.
The last time these two teams met was mid-January and Buffalo fell to a tough 4-1 loss at home. Tonight would be the perfect night to keep that beautiful away record (18-8-2) soaring and get a little revenge at the same time.
2. Could Tonight Be 40?
Tage “TNT” Thompson has obviously been an absolute joy to watch this season as he has truly become the top forward we have been craving for years. Following his hat trick last night (shout out to his linemate Jeff Skinner, too, as his passing and playmaking was also chef’s kiss last night), Thompson has 39 goals in 56 games and has officially surpassed last year’s total for the entire season. Will tonight be 40 for him? I think I speak for every Sabres fan when I say...let’s do this, Tommer!
Thompson is now one of six Sabres players to have scored 38 or more goals within the first 60 games of the regular season. He is in good company with Danny Gare, Pat LaFontaine, Rick Martin, Alexander Mogilny, and Gilbert Pearreault. He is also third in the franchise for most hat tricks in a season with four (behind Mogilny and Martin with seven, respectively). The last time a Sabre had four hat tricks in a season was during the 2010-2011 season and it was Drew Stafford.
3. Well-Rested and Home
What is in the Sabres’ favor right now? Coming off of a huge overtime win against the Lightning. Also, top center Alexander Barkov will be out of the lineup for the Panthers due to a “lingering injury issue.”
What is not in their favor right now? Rest. Coming into tonight’s game, the Panthers have not played since Monday and are likely very well-rested and ready to go with elite goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes. Also not in Buffalo’s favor is Florida’s impressive home record at 16-8-3. Let us all start manifesting a ninth regulation loss for the home team tonight.
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Victor Olofsson
Casey Mittelstadt - Peyton Krebs - Jack Quinn
Zemgus Girgensons - Tyson Jost - Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin - Mattias Samuelsson
Owen Power - Henri Jokiharju
Jacob Bryson - Ilya Lyubushkin
Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (expected), Craig Anderson, Eric Comrie
Carter Verhaeghe - Eetu Luostarinen - Matthew Tkachuk
Anthony Duclair* - Anton Lundell - Sam Reinhart
Ryan Lomberg - Eric Staal - Nick Cousins
Grigory Denisenko - Colin White - Zac Dalpe
*This is Duclair’s first game back since sustaining an Achilles injury in the offseason.
Gustav Forsling - Aaron Ekblad
Marc Staal - Brandon Montour
Josh Mahura - Radko Gudas
Goaltenders: Sergei Bobrovsky (expected), Alex Lyon