Tonights opponent is the Florida Panthers, in the first game of our annual Florida Trip. Hopefully the only RED that the Panthers will be seeing is the flashing lights behind their goaltender.
Both the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers are off to hot starts. So far the only loss for the Sabres has come in the home opener against the Carolina Hurricanes - hopefully the result of too much energy and motivation about playing in front of their home crowd for the first time in the first full season of Hockey Heaven. Since then its been road win after road win for the trending Buffalo Sabres. The Florida Panthers are off to a decent start as well – and I don’t know if I want to call that expected. The Florida Panthers, no doubt tired of the Buffalo Bills like playoff drought – through an energy drink or electric shock therapy at their fans this off season by drastically changing their lineup to change the entire culture of Panthers hockey in Sunrise, Florida.
I would say that the major changes have had, a somewhat of a success. While a five game sampling is nothing to really base a season on, the Panthers have landed 6 out of 10 possible points, and their special teams are improving. The team has a long road ahead of them though. While they are scoring at 2.6 goals per game, they are allowing their opponents to score just as many. The Buffalo Sabres can give them fits tonight if their offense clicks and is running at full power.
The Panthers also have some Buffalo connections. After captaining the Portland Pirates from the bench for the Buffalo Sabres, Kevin Dineen was rewarded with a top man spot in the NHL. He is joined by assistant coach Craig Ramsay who wore Blue and Gold, and spent time behind the bench as well. Both men are well versed in the culture and experience that the Buffalo Sabres organization brings into every hockey game. Former Buffalo Sabres defensemen Brian Campbell also faces off against his former team tonight, who true to form that I called when the return to the Eastern Conference was announced, Campbell is tied in the league lead for assists with 7.
Florida is going to try and get past being shutout by the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, while the Buffalo Sabres are going to look to continue to go undefeated on the road; a record that was almost stalled in Montreal. The Sabres started the game poorly, and were bailed out by Ryan Miller, being outshot in the first period 14-3. While we should have gotten at least a point against Carolina, we did pick up two against Montreal in a game we had no business winning. We can chalk that one up to hockey karma.
The Florida Panthers will also be hosting their annual Hockey Fights Cancer night tonight. For more details regarding what will be happening in Sunrise during the game tonight as the league enters its 14th year of this event, check out Frank Rekas’ article.
Jochen Hecht continues to struggle with his concussion, and while prior to the Sabres/Canadiens game he was listed in the pre-game notes as day to day, on today’s preview his status as listed as indefinitely. I think its only a matter of time before he is placed on permanent IR, officially ending his 2011-2012 season before it starts. I would anticipate seeing Ryan Miller in net tonight, as he has had some rest after his performance against the Montreal onslaught. We could see Jhonas Enroth between the pipes for the game against Tampa Bay.
Faceoff tonight is 7:30.