Jan 21, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres right wing Brian Flynn (65) skates with the puck as Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) chases during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres PreGame Skate #63: Florida Panthers

On the heels of a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay, the Buffalo Sabres finish out a Florida road trip by facing the Panthers tonight in a 7:30 p.m. matchup that will see the introduction of at least two new faces to the blue & gold lineup.

Cory Conacher is expected to make his Sabres debut tonight; he’ll wear #88.

Michal Neuvirth is also expected to start in goal for Buffalo, giving Jhonas Enroth a night off after playing in four consecutive games for the first time this season. Neuvirth will wear #34 for the Sabres.

In addition, Nicolas Deslauriers, acquired via trade from the Los Angeles Kings, has been recalled from the Rochester Americans and could make his Sabres – and NHL – debut tonight. Forward Luke Adam was also recalled from Rochester.

While the Sabres have several new additions to their roster, so do the Panthers.

Tonight’s game is the first since the trade deadline for the Panthers, who have two new goaltenders on their roster. Roberto Luongo joins the Panthers from the Vancouver Canucks, while Dan Ellis joins Florida after being traded from Dallas.

Luongo is expected to start tonight’s game; it’ll be his first game in a Panthers uniform since April 18, 2006.

Also new to the Panthers is forward Brandon Pirri, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

The Sabres wrap up their 10th of 13 sets of back-to-back games tonight. The team is just 1-5-3 in the second game of a back-to-back set this season, so they’ll look to pull out strong tonight against the Panthers.

Tonight’s game is the fourth meeting of the season between the Sabres and the Panthers.
Buffalo won the first meeting on October 25, but Florida has won both meetings since then.

Rasmus Ristolainen, Steve Ott and Cody Hodgson scored for Buffalo in that October victory, while Jhonas Enroth had 44 saves. Jesse Winchester had the lone goal for Florida.

Florida went on to take a 2-1 shootout win in Buffalo on January 9. Jamie McBain scored the lone goal for Buffalo, while Brad Boyes scored for the Panthers and had the shootout winner to top it off. Enroth had 34 saves in the loss.

Finally, Drew Stafford scored twice as the Panthers beat the Sabres 4-3 on January 25. Steve Ott had the other Buffalo goal. Florida’s goals came from Jesse Winchester, Sean Bergenheim, Ed Jovanovski and Nick Bjugstad.

The Sabres are 4-3-3 in their last ten games against the Panthers. Buffalo is 20-15-3 on the road against Florida all-time.

Players to watch for the Sabres include defenseman Tyler Myers, who has six points in his last four games, including three goals. Drew Stafford has recorded 12 points (6-6) in his last 12 games. Christian Ehrhoff has nine points in his last 11, though he has been held pointless in the last two games. Tyler Ennis has nine points (4-5) in his last nine games.

Missing from tonight’s lineup for the Sabres will be center Zemgus Girgensons and right wing Chris Stewart. Both suffered injuries in last night’s win over Tampa Bay. It’s uncertain at this point what their statuses will be going forward.

Hot players for the Panthers include left winger Scottie Upshall, who has 30 points in 56 games. Former Sabres forward Brad Boyes leads the Panthers with 17 goals, while Brian Campbell has six goals and 22 assists. Another player to watch for the Panthers may be center Vincent Trocheck, who will make his NHL debut against the Sabres tonight.

Missing tonight for the Panthers will likely be center Aleksander Barkov and right wing Tomas Kopecky, both of whom are on injured reserve. Kopecky suffered what is reportedly a concussion during the Olympics, while Barkov suffered a knee injury in Sochi.

The Sabres and Panthers are seven points apart, sitting 30th and 28th in the league, respectively. The Panthers are coming off a 4-1 loss on March 4; the Sabres are coming off last night’s win in Tampa Bay.

Although tonight’s game features two of the worst teams in the NHL, it’ll be interesting to watch nonetheless, between Neuvirth and Conacher’s debuts and all-new goaltending for Florida.

The puck drops at 7:30 p.m., so get your popcorn ready, sit back, relax and get ready for an interesting game.

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Tags: Buffalo Sabres Florida Panthers

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