With playoff hopes dwindling, the Buffalo Sabres finish off their second Florida road trip tonight with a matchup against the Florida Panthers. They are a team struggling with their identity just as much as the Buffalo Sabres.
Last off season, the Panthers overhauled their lineup to make the playoffs for the first time in ten years. This year the Panthers are playing more like the team the rest of the National Hockey League are used to playing against. This is the final meeting between two of the worst teams in the NHL this season, and so far the season has been split with one win a piece, taking place in the opponents building.
While the Buffalo Sabres will get their assistant captain back into the lineup, they may be without Thomas Vanek. Vanek left the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning with an upper body injury, and is questionable for tonight’s match up. Drew Stafford will be reinserted into the lineup after being a healthy scratch in the Buffalo Sabres last two games. How will he respond to the benching?
Part of the problems for the Florida Panthers this season has been injuries. They are unable to properly defend their Southeast Division banner with the number of star players they have lost to injury, most notably goalie Jose Theodore, and forwards Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss. If Buffalo wants to maintain hope of sneaking into the playoffs, which is still in the deep realm of possibility, they have to get two points in regulation against the Florida Panthers. Realistically, the team should be planning on what they can do in the coming week via the trade deadline to get better for next season and the future.