Florida trip begins tonight

⏰ 7 p.m.   ? MSG   ? WGR550

After a loss against the New York Rangers to close out the homestand and a tough start to the road trip Saturday, the Sabres travel to Florida to begin a two-game trip.

With the attempt to start another winning streak, the team is in Sunshine, Florida to take on the Panthers at BB&T Center for the final time this season.

The Panthers are currently in the middle of their own seven-game homestand and are coming off an impressive win over Montreal on Sunday.

Both teams are currently separated by five points, with each team looking for a win to inch closer to a potential playoff berth as the season winds down.

Season series: Tonight is the fourth and final matchup between division foes, with the Sabres looking to even the season series after Florida earned the first two season wins. In their first game of the 2019 calendar year, the Sabres earned a 4-3 win over Florida at KeyBank Center, with Linus Ullmark stopping 35 of 38 shots faced in the win, along with Jeff Skinner netting two goals, including the game-winner.

Buffalo notes: The Sabres struggles have continued since the end of the 10-game win streak back in November have continued, with only one win in their last four games. They are six points behind Montreal for the final playoff spot. Although Jeff Skinner currently leads the team and is tied for second in the NHL with 36 goals, the team as a whole has failed to continue their success from earlier in the year.

After Sunday’s loss to the Devils, Kyle Okposo headed back to Buffalo while the team was headed to Florida, for further evaluations, which determined that he suffered a concussion after fighting Tony DeAngelo of the Rangers last Friday.

While his future is uncertain, it’s imperative for the Sabres to earn a win and garner more points before a difficult stretch of their schedule starts, including games against Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Washington, and two against their arch-rival Toronto.

If their goal for this year is a spot in the playoffs, a win tonight could go a long way toward possibly making a late-season run.

Florida notes: With 25 wins and 58 total points through 57 games played, the Panthers sit 11 points behind the Canadiens for the last spot in the Eastern Conference.

Mike Hoffman, currently playing his first season in South Florida after being traded from Ottawa and San Jose last offseason, is leading the team with 26 goals, while team captain Alexsander Barkov leads with 57 points.

Despite the team struggling to maintain consistency, these are players to watch as the game progresses, especially since Barkov scored the game-winner against Buffalo in OT on November 30. 

Starting goaltenders: Although Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark have been splitting starts as of late, the team’s performance has overshadowed some individual performances in net.

However, Ullmark might be getting the start tonight with the hope to build some momentum before the final quarter of the year.

After earning two straight wins at home against Calgary and Montreal, James Reimer might get the night off in favor of Roberto Luongo, who earned a win in the team’s 5-2 win over the Sabres on the road last December.

Robert Janish, Jr.
One of the most memorable Sabres games I ever attended was the line brawl against the Senators, which Buffalo won in a shootout, 6-5. I can't wait for the day when playoff hockey returns to Buffalo. I graduated with a Masters in Sport Administration, and a Bachelor's in Political Science & Communication Studies from Canisius College.
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