The Buffalo Sabres (1-9-1) visit fellow basement dweller Florida Panthers (3-6-1) in their first game since a controversial outing against the Boston Bruins. As expected, the Sabres were steamrolled by the Bruins and embarrassed themselves with some hits that will likely result in suspensions. That’s neither here nor there tonight though as this matchup pits two teams desperate to crawl up the Atlantic Division standings before it’s too late.
For Florida, this game is about beating a rare team below them and at least getting into a competitive spot. The season is early and as long as the Panthers can build some momentum, they can at least grow as a team and maybe challenge for a wild card spot. Anything is possible after ten games.
Anything is possible except for, it seems, the Buffalo Sabres. While both teams are bad, the Sabres are redefining the word with every horrid performance in 2013. They’ve scored 15 goals in 11 games. If you need more stats on why they’re bad, then you’re reaching for a reason to praise this team. Let me save you the time. There isn’t. Sure, a few individuals have put up good games here and there, but the Sabres are a train wreck in their own category after ten games or so have been played in the NHL. They have yet to win in regulation or overtime and they have yet to score more than three goals in regulation. Tonight, they’ll have a chance to turn all of that aside and at least gain a win for pride’s sake. It may not be a pretty game, but if the Sabres can finally just put a good game in and get a win, maybe they can start to rid themselves of the bad mojo following them around so far.
Buffalo has had the worst start in franchise history thanks in no small part to the way they start every game. The Sabres have been outscored 14-1 in the first period. That’s bad coaching. It’s one thing to be worn down and lacking the talent needed to put up a full 60 minutes, but to not even be able to come out on your home ice and beat a team for at least 20 minutes shows a lack of even basic competence. They’ll have a great chance to turn that around tonight as the Florida crowd won’t exactly be burgeoning to start and it might allow the young Sabres forwards to get out there and make some plays. Scoring first will be important not just for this team’s chances of winning, but for their morale in general. Show you can do it once in a while and maybe you’ll do it more.
Florida will start Jacob Markstrom in net tonight thanks to a Tim Thomas injury. This is Markstrom’s first start since October 15th, when he gave up four goals on 30 shots in a losing effort agains the Nashville Predators. Buffalo will start Jhonas Enroth, who is winless on the season thanks to the aforementioned stagnant offense. Enroth has played solid, but it has only gotten the Sabres so far (read: nowhere. It’s gotten them nowhere). Still, Enroth is playing for a new contract and could receive a nice offer from Buffalo if/when Ryan Miller leaves town.
The game begins at 7:30PM EST and can be seen on MSG.