Game Day Preview: Florida Panthers at Buffalo Sabres

SUNRISE FL - DECEMBER 17: Drew Stafford #21 and Thomas Vanek #26 of the Buffalo Sabres skate after the puck with Jason Garrison #52 of the Florida Panthers on December 17 2010 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise Florida. The Panthers defeated the Sabres 6-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Florida: 29-35-10 (68PTS)
Buffalo: 36-28-9 (81PTS)
Season Series: 2-0-1
Race to the Bottom: 30 EDM (56), 29 COL (64), 28 OTT (65), 27 FLA (68), 26 NYI (70), 25 NJD (72)
Record before and after the trade deadline: 26-29-7 (59PTS) .476 / 3-6-3 (9PTS) .375

This is where it gets ugly. After a few good games immediately following a huge sell-off at the trade deadline, the Panthers have been shut out two games in a row and seen their points percentage drop far below pre-deadline levels. Tonight they are hosted by a Sabres team that started out slow but have put themselves into a playoff spot. They are currently holding the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and have a 3 point lead on ninth place Carolina.

Last meeting: The Sabres won their first against the Cats this season in Florida, a 3-2 overtime victory on Feb 10.

Last game: The Panthers were shutout for the second game in a row when they were beaten 4-0 by the Blawhawks in Chicago.

Notes: Scott Clemmensen is ok to play and Tyler Plante has returned to Rochester. Stephen Weiss skated today, but is not confirmed for tonight's game.

Injuries: Stephen Weiss, leg, unknown (3/22/2011). Scott Timmins, concussion, unknown (3/10/2011). Rostislav Olesz, knee, out for the season (2/25/2011). Byron Bitz (IR), sports hernia, out for the season.

Starting goaltenders: Tomas Vokoun will start again for the Panthers. He has 2 wins, a 2.60 GAA and a .932 save percentage in three games against the Sabres this season.

Lines: Stephen Weiss will be a game time decision. These lines assume that Weiss will be absent again. If he makes the game, it will likely be Hordichuk sitting in the box and either Matthias or Bernier skating with Repik and Carter on the fourth line.

Forwards:
Bergfors - Reasoner - Samsonov
Booth - Santorelli - Skille
Dadonov - Matthias - Bernier
Hordichuk - Carter - Repik

Defense:
Weaver-Garrison
Kulikov-Ellerby
Callahan-Sulzer

Look for the Panthers to lose their third in a row as the Sabres play hard to hold on to their playoff spot. At this point in the season, the Sabres are playing better than the Cats and going to want this one more. The Panthers have shown some resilience this season and are likely not going to go down without a fight. If Weiss is back in the lineup tonight, they may break the scoring drought, but will still probably come up short. The best the visiting team fans can hope for is that they've gotten it back together by the end of the road trip and are playing better for their last three home games.

More from our Buffalo cohorts at Die By The Blade.

UPDATE: The Amerks announced that Patrick Rissmiller has been recalled by the Panthers. The Panthers have not said who he will be replacing. It's a safe bet that this means Weiss is not playing, and probably someone else will be out as well.

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