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Game 81 Preview & Open Thread: Sabres vs. Panthers

Feb 27, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) and left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) scuffle with Buffalo Sabres left wing Jordan Greenway (12), defenseman Connor Clifton (75) and center Dylan Cozens (24) during the second period at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Game #81

Buffalo Sabres (38-37-5) vs. Florida Panthers (50-24-6)

Puck Drop: 5:00 PM EST | Amerant Bank Arena | Sunrise, FL


Radio: WGR-550

Know Your Opponent

Florida Panthers

Record: 50-24-6 | 106 PTS

Last Game: 4-0 win vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Division Ranking: 2nd in Atlantic Division

PP Ranking: 24.3% (7th)

PK Ranking: 82.7% (6th)

What to Watch

1. Playoff Panthers

The sad reality of being part of the Buffalo Sabres’ fanbase is that we have to watch them miss the playoffs over and over – well, at least for the last 13 seasons. As fans are well aware, this is the longest drought in NHL history, an accomplishment that leaves no one proud and everyone in Western New York beyond frustrated.

As for the Panthers, though, this game will be a meaningful one as they continue to battle for the top spot in their division – trailing Boston by only one point – and with Toronto on their heels. Florida is also coming off of two big shutout wins against the Senators and Blue Jackets, respectively, and will be looking for that home-ice advantage as the playoffs inch closer.

It looks like the closest the Sabres can get to the postseason this year is by watching former teammates like Sam Reinhart, Evan Rodrigues, and Brandon Montour continue to dominate – especially Reinhart, who now has 54 goals and 91(!) points with a +26.

2. Is There Really Anything Else to Watch at This Point?

With just two games left – tonight against the Panthers and Monday against the Lightning – it seems as though the faster this team puts us all out of our misery, the better. Many fans came into the season with high hopes only to have them crushed, while others remained pessimistic and turned out to be right. Will next season be more of the same? If Terry Pegula’s organization has a repeat of last year’s offseason, it can almost be guaranteed. Feel free to sound off in the comments below regarding what needs to take place in the upcoming offseason.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres


JJ Peterka – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch

Zach Benson – Dylan Cozens – Jack Quinn

Jeff Skinner – Peyton Krebs – Jordan Greenway

Zemgus Girgensons – Tyson Jost – Lukas Rousek


Owen Power – Rasmus Dahlin

Kale Clague – Henri Jokiharju

Jacob Bryson – Connor Clifton

Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (expected), Eric Comrie

*Bowen Byram has been day-to-day for personal reasons.

Florida Panthers


Vladimir Tarasenko – Aleksander Barkov – Sam Reinhart

Nick Cousins – Sam Bennett – Matthew Tkachuk

Eetu Luostarinen – Anton Lundell – Evan Rodrigues

Kyle Okposo – Kevin Stenlund – Steven Lorentz


Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Gustav Forsling

Niko Mikkola – Brandon Montour

Uvis Balinskis – Dmitry Kulikov

Goaltenders: Sergei Bobrovsky (confirmed), Anthony Stolarz

Think the Sabres can win two in a row? Buy some merch!