The Sabres never have an easy time when taking on the Florida Panthers. Regardless of where the two teams are in the standings, they give each other a hard time.
Tonight’s contest will be the fourth and final time they will meet this season, with Florida taking two out of the first three. Both wins by the Panthers came by one goal, including a shootout winner from former Sabre Brad Boyes on January 9th.
It isn’t exactly a game of the NHL’s best teams, but there are some intriguing story lines to follow. Goaltender Roberto Luongo is expected to play his first game for the Panthers since April 18th, 2006. After being traded for Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom, Luongo is back in Florida after seven seasons with the Canucks.
At the other end, Michal Neuvirth is expected to get the start in net for Buffalo and would be making his Sabres debut. Newly acquired forward Cory Conacher is also expected to crack the lineup tonight.
The Sabres are coming off a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay and have gone 5-5 in the last 10, including wins in four of their last five contests.
“Going into the last stretch of games here, our playoffs basically start today,” Ted Nolan said. “A lot of guys’ contracts are up, there are jobs to be won. There’s no such thing as there’s nothing to play for. There’s a lot to play for. They’re playing for livelihood, so we’ve got to unite, find some new leaders on this team.”
As usual, tonight’s matchup won’t be an easy one. The Sabres have struggled on the road all season long. With a 7-18-3 record away from home, the Sabres are the only team in the NHL that has not won at least 10 road games.
The Panthers have had a rough go of it as of late, dropping eight of their last 10, and they are expecting to have a forward of their own make his NHL debut.
Vincent Trochek of the AHL has collected 16 goals and 25 assists in 54 games for San Antonio this season.
Tonight’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on the MSG Network.